The answer can be found at Palazzo Strozzi, which will open the exhibition Untrue Unreal by the master Anish Kapoor starting from tomorrow, October 7th. Often, the artist has defined himself as «a painter who is a sculptor,» perhaps due to his obsession with pigments, to the extent that he purchased exclusive rights to use Vantablack, a particular black pigment that absorbs 99.96% of light. His visual language is unique. In Kapoor’s work, color is not just about shades or materials but becomes an immersive and illusory phenomenon simultaneously. Painting, sculpture, and architectural forms engage with each other to explore the concept of space and time, reflecting particularly on dualities such as body and mind, nature and artifice. The title of this exhibition, curated by Arturo Galansino, immediately suggests Kapoor’s intention: to blend the unreal and the improbable, altering or even denying viewers their “normal” perception of reality. Let’s discover more about this potentially destabilizing exhibition.
Upon entering Palazzo Strozzi, visitors encounter a massive site-specific artwork. An enormous white pavilion positioned in the center of the courtyard, accessible to all even without a ticket. Inside Void Pavilion VIII, three large empty rectangular forms are placed, constructed using Vantablack. Right from the start, the viewer is drawn to approach, to immerse themselves in this emptiness, but above all, to question the depth of the rectangles that appear flat. This is the leitmotif of the entire exhibition, a constant invitation from Kapoor to approach, seeking the truth behind the illusion he has masterfully created. The challenge is to search for truth beyond appearances, in a world where “reality seems increasingly elusive and manipulable.” In this regard, Kapoor himself, in a dialogue with curator Galansino, reaffirms his intention more than ever today. «I would dare to say that we have lost touch with human reality and our fellow beings, including the hundred million who wander the planet as refugees. All of this in the blind indoctrination of ultra-nationalists. The role of artists, in my opinion, is to look at the unknown or the semi-known. I have nothing to say. My truth is to trust in what I do not know or only partially know. In this, the untrue/unreal is a guide.»
Continuing the journey and visiting the exhibition’s rooms, the answer to our initial question becomes clear: Anish Kapoor has revolutionized the concept of sculpture in contemporary art. Each room, and therefore each installation, comes to life and concludes thanks to the viewer. Kapoor himself states that «the circle is completed only with the viewer.» Without the experience and without dialogue with the individual, who experiences it in a completely subjective manner, the artwork cannot have a universal dimension. Or rather, in Kapoor’s words: «There is a distinct difference from those works with a defined subject, where meaning and counterpoint already form a complete circle.»
In this regard, when speaking of illusion and disorientation, the mirror room is emblematic, in which Vertigo, Mirror, and Newborn lead the viewer into another dimension, defying the laws of physics. Here more than ever, the inward tension is uncontrollable. With every step and every movement, reality continues to undergo distortions that are highly destabilizing, echoing the questions posed by Kapoor himself, “Where is the actual space of the object? Is it what you are looking at, or is it the space beyond what you are looking at?”
The exhibition Untrue Unreal is undoubtedly a significant achievement for the city of Florence and even more so for Palazzo Strozzi, which, exhibition after exhibition, reaffirms its position as one of the most important venues for contemporary art on an international level. The dialogue that the Foundation has made possible between Anish Kapoor and the historic Palazzo, and consequently with the city itself, allowed the press conference on October 5th to conclude with a statement from Kapoor that left everyone speechless. «It would be an honor for me to create a permanent public artwork for the city of Florence.» We can only wait and see if this will happen, but in the meantime, you can visit Untrue Unreal until February 4, 2024.
Ph Credits ©ElaBialkowskaOKNOstudio