Critics’ Picks

Anish Kapoor, Memory 2008, Cor-Ten steel, 47 x 29 x 15'. Installation view.

New York

Anish Kapoor

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York
1071 Fifth Avenue
October 21–March 28

The past, we are told, is another country. We can access it from some directions, not from others. We lose our bearings, feel frustrated, retrace our steps. Such is Memory, 2008, Anish Kapoor’s latest attempt to perplex viewers. Constructed with twenty-four tons of Cor-Ten steel, his site-specific oval sculpture looks––from architectural blueprints––like an oversize (albeit squished) basketball. Visitors can never see Memory in its entirety: Squeezed between white walls, it can only be approached obliquely. From one entry, its burnished “skin” invites us to touch it, while from the other entrance, one can glimpse inside its hollow interior––its tunnel-like core much like the rabbit hole Alice toppled into.

Kapoor calls Memory a “mental sculpture,” and its relationship to the architecture of the museum is obvious: stressing somewhat ominous tendencies within Frank Lloyd Wright’s soaring, spiraling landmark. In the quintessentially modernist whitewashed walkways––whose walls generally serve as receptacles for art––culture gazing is a communal activity. Wherever we stand in the rotunda, we can be observed. The building has few secluded nooks, so that when privacy is achieved, it feels strangely clandestine. The deliberately obfuscating nature of Memory––disguised behind false partitions, beckoning us between barriers––underscores this sense of the personal as tied to subterfuge: Memory lures us toward it, but try to explore it intimately and security guards wave us away, and roped barricades trip us up. With Kapoor’s hollow artwork we see less than we want but perceive more about institutional authority than we think.