In 1990, Anish Kapoor, supported by the British Council, was Britain's representative at the Venice Biennale. Still an Indian citizen at the time of his selection, Kapoor's exhibition questioned what it meant to be claimed as a "British" artist at a time when multiculturalism was at its height and, in Europe, events in Berlin would signal geopolitical change. Aligned for years with artists associated with the “New British Sculpture”, Kapoor's bold exhibition at the British Pavilion would bring him international acclaim. Routinely positioned  between East and West, Kapoor's sculpture and conceptual concerns were often read as universalist, but the messy postcolonial and diasporic legacies of British art force a reconsideration of this timely exhibition.


Before his 1989 solo exhibition at the Lisson Gallery, London, it was feared that the Indian-born artist, Anish Kapoor, had reached an impasse. This exhibition marked a turning point in the artist’s sculpture, which he had been practising in Britain for the previous two decades. Reviews were positive and the belief that Kapoor was “stuck” with his pigment-piled towers—a critique levelled at him since the early 1980s—seemed to dissipate with the lavish praise of the press.1 His pointed departure from the world of “New British Sculpture”—exemplified by the mixed group of artists with whom he exhibited at the “Aperto” in Venice in 1982—towards a more independent and surreptitious terrain, was felt with his surprising selection to represent Britain in the 1990 Venice Biennale.2 What the exhibition seemed to ask of its public was to see “beyond” Kapoor’s previous group associations, as well as his much-touted Indian “roots”, in order to further embed the artist into a British/national, or even European, mainstream. This while he was headlining for a nation for whom name and origin carried a particular weight since decolonization, and whose own art practice appeared to require a constant negotiation between identities. In spite of the formal and transcendent qualities attributed to his sculpture, they did little to dispel the charismatic figure of the artist, and the messy, albeit rich, legacy of diasporic and postcolonial concerns in British art.


One year after the fall of Berlin Wall, the year 1990 saw a shift in exhibition politics. In Europe, this was exemplified by the controversial exhibitions Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Pompidou and Parc de la Villette in Paris, and Rasheed Araeen’s postcolonial account of Modernism in The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain at the Hayward Gallery in London.3 Both sought a new global and/or multicultural approach to European exhibition making, however unevenly inflected across exhibition spaces. Giovanni Carandente, director of the XLIV Venice Biennale, focused on a younger international generation of artists and the possibilities to come in “Future Dimension”. The latter paid special tribute to the tumultuous political events in Berlin one year earlier in “Ambiente Berlin” housed in the Italian Pavilion. African and aboriginal artists were also included in the Biennale and received special mention.4 Gran Fury shocked with its AIDS tribute and controversial Pope Piece using the penis and condoms to draw social crises, homosexuality, and activism further into the “sanctity” of Biennale culture. The Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida, meanwhile, returned modernist sculpture to the exhibition, with a series of iron works in the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna which feted his win at the 1958 Biennale. Chillida’s sculpture resonated with contemporary philosophy, and the “emptiness” of his sculpture was equated by Martin Heidegger to part of its space and place in the world.5 Space was a theme of the Biennale in Venice, or, more precisely “the relationship that the artist establishes with the surrounding space”, which Carandente saw as the “definition” of that year’s exhibition.6 In this climate, Anish Kapoor’s sandstone blocks and deconstructed sculptural forms, with their twinning of spiritualism and eroticism, created a foil, as well as a parallel, to other works seen in the exhibition; the blue-black void in the stones projected a “metaphysical” stillness in an otherwise disparate, if energetic, Biennale. Poised perfectly in its theatrics, Kapoor’s works at the British Pavilion were the highlight of the Giardini, suited as they were for “the light and airy spaces which the pavilion affords”.7 The juxtaposition between the “volume and the voids”, “the [human] body and spirit of the sculpture” in a city where “East meets West”, or where a land “mediated” between sea and sky, staged the exhibition as both contradiction and confrontation. It was set to see Kapoor, already age thirty-six, create a sensation and walk away with the Premio Duemila prize, habitually awarded to an artist under the age of thirty-five.8

1990, showing Anish Kapoor, <i>Void Field</i>, 1989, 16 elements, sandstone and pigment, each element 125 x 125 x 125 cm

Figure 1.
Installation View, XLIV Venice Biennale, 1990, showing Anish Kapoor, Void Field, 1989, 16 elements, sandstone and pigment, each element 125 x 125 x 125 cm

Digital image courtesy of Anish Kapoor 2016 / Photo: Graziano Arici

Void Field (1989) was the most challenging and successful of Kapoor’s works both in his Lisson Gallery show in 1989 and at the Venice Biennale (fig. 1).9 Presented in the main gallery of the British Pavilion, Void Field was positioned to capture attention even after successive (and expensive) attempts to move it.10 The work had already been lauded in the British press before appearing in Venice.11 Made of Northumbrian sandstone and pigment, the phenomenological qualities of the sixteen stone sculptures were much remarked upon when the work was first presented at the Lisson Gallery; this included the “smell” of the pigment which, unlike chemical and industrial odours, smelled of the “sour-sweet damp of the earth”.12 Emphasis was on the primitive, while critics’ references ranged from the holy “Jerusalem” to “mystic”.12 Interestingly, it was this metaphysical quality that led one prominent New York gallerist, on the day of the opening, to put his finger in one of the stone holes and mark his forehead with a blue-black cross; paying tribute to the spiritual aspect of the work by performing the Catholic ritual of purification.14 That evening, other visitors put their fingers into the stone holes, amongst them, Artistic Director of the Biennale, Giovanni Carandente (figs. 2, 3, 4).This engagement with the sacred was also not lost on Giulio Andreotti, the then Italian prime minister and controversial leader of the Christian Democratic Party, who, in a test of faith, could be seen leaning over with his eye peering into the void.14 The work, as such, was open to a wide range of interpretations and experiences.

  • DOI

    Figure 2.

    Giulio Andreotti with Anish Kapoor’s sculpture, Void Field, at the 1990 Venice Biennale. From left to right: Henry Meyric Hughes, Anish Kapoor, Giulio Andreotti, and Giovanni Carandente, Artistic Director of the Biennale

    Digital image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia—Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee / Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti

  • Void Field

    Figure 3.

    Giulio Andreotti peering into the void of Anish Kapoor’s sculpture, Void Field, at the 1990 Venice Biennale. From left to right: Henry Meyric Hughes, Anish Kapoor, unknown man, Giulio Andreotti and Giovanni Carandente, Artistic Director of the Biennale.

    Digital image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia—Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee / Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti

  • DOI

    Figure 4.

    Giulio Andreotti putting his finger into the void of Anish Kapoor’s sculpture , Void Field, From left to right: Henry Meyric Hughes, Anish Kapoor, unknown man, Giulio Andreotti and Giovanni Carandente, Artistic Director of the Biennale

    Digital image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia—Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee / Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti


In Venice, Void Field could be seen as a potential political counterpoint to Richard Long’s Red Earth Circle at the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition in Paris in 1989. There, the curator Jean-Hubert Martin had controversially juxtaposed Long’s Red Earth Circle, with its “void” at the centre, with the dirt floor painting Yam Dreaming, by the Yuendumu Aboriginal artists, in the Grande Halle of the Parc de la Villette.16 While each of these works emphasized the hand or hands of the artist, the pairing raised questions about the relationship which reflected those underlining the exhibition as a whole: “pre-modern authenticity” and the primitive and, by default, the “non-European” whose exposure to Western art created a derivativeness, or “contamination”.17 In this way, Kapoor, Indian-born and British-trained, could be seen in some way to mediate and reroute the formal differences between sculpture, the floor, raw material, and the primitive, which he both reinstated and escaped through his Western training, “palatable” Modernism, and his positioning of the stones in Void Field. Sandstone, too, signified a colonial past, prominent as it was in monuments to British imperialism as seen in the architecture of Lutyens’s Delhi. Further back, the material, widely available in India, also featured in the country’s premodern sculpture.


The rough stone blocks of Void Field placed the work somewhere between the floor and the verticality of the wall, much like the two works in the Paris exhibition, though in Venice Kapoor played with the formal implications of Void Field alongside The Healing of St Thomas (1989); a red fibre-glass gash in the wall of the pavilion. Verticality is met with horizontality, slashes/wounds, and cave-like voids, even death, as the “body” becomes implicated in the sculpture. In this way, Kapoor uses British sculpture to challenge the American critic Michael Fried’s rejection of Minimalism, along with the sleek industrial materials of Donald Judd, through his use of natural stone, with all of the psychological and corporeal suggestions of the work of Eva Hesse.18 It was Romanian-British sculptor Paul Neagu, Kapoor’s teacher at the Royal College of Art, who had focused the artist on performance and led him to see how the body is implicated in an artwork, in the creation of a new iteration between England and the United States via Eastern Europe, or even the “East”.19


Kapoor’s work in the British Pavilion, a building erected in 1887, where the British Council’s first group show had been held at the twilight of imperialism in 1938, was anti-institutional in as much as it was about the awkward process of decolonization. Bringing heavy stones into the gallery (at great cost), both ponderous and difficult to move, could be seen as a subversive gesture; so too could the powder of the pigment pieces which detached from the sculptures and travelled and stained the walls.20 The logistics of maintaining the show were complex in other ways too, with the blue powder pigment of one of the pieces frequently having to be replaced without leaving any marks behind.21 The clinical finish of the gallery was important for showing works such as the technically accomplished and mysterious red slash of The Healing of St Thomas. Kapoor’s A Wing at the Heart of Things of 1990, with its conceptual and seemingly Christian title, was placed at the back of the gallery which faced Torcello, the oldest continuously populated island of Venice (fig. 5). In this way, and with his work Madonna (1989–90), Kapoor made the country’s history of Catholicism integral to the exhibition. It is Man (1989–90) continued to play on the polar opposites of the sexes, which was also seen in the vaginal imagery of Black Fire (1990), or the oval-shaped crevice made from coal.22 Such work saw the possible impact of Indian neotantrism, whose themes Kapoor would continue to explore throughout his career.23 Along with the Iranian-born artist Shirazeh Houshiary, Kapoor was described in the 1980s as one of the few sculptors who were working against industrial and object-based materials fashionable in Britain, and instead utilizing “archetypes”.24 Each work of the Biennale showed Kapoor moving away from the earlier pure pigment sculptures to a more complex (if sometimes heavy-handed) set of works which concentrated on paradoxes of weight, lightness, voids, gashes, hollows, and long slabs of natural material in bright pigments or dark, earthy colours.

1990, showing Anish Kapoor, <i>A Wing at the Heart of Things</i>, 1990, slate and pigment, two parts: 28 x 353 x 270 cm; 25 x 295 x 320 cm

Figure 5.
Installation View, XLIV Venice Biennale, 1990, showing Anish Kapoor, A Wing at the Heart of Things, 1990, slate and pigment, two parts: 28 x 353 x 270 cm; 25 x 295 x 320 cm

Digital image courtesy of Anish Kapoor 2016 / Photo: Graziano Arici


The difficulty of positioning Kapoor’s work is reflected in the discourse created to help understand it; critics constantly negotiated the artist’s position between East and West. Writing in the Biennale exhibition catalogue, the critic Thomas McEvilley focused on the relationship between Yves Klein, the void, Indian tantrism, and the sexual duality which underlies it; all of which would be dismissed only a decade later by Indian-bred postcolonial theorists.25 McEvilley drew together a broad range of sources which included Hegelian origins (implying Clement Greenberg and Modernism’s teleology), Eastern philosophy, Hinduism, Judaism, Modernism, Minimalism, Postminimalism, poetics, metaphysics, and psychoanalysis to evoke Kapoor’s work.26 However, McEvilley’s positioning of Kapoor between the binaries of East and West created an internationalism which would come to define him: a kind of “universalism” which emptied out the complex politics which would locate the work in any specific context, time, space, or place.27 Kapoor’s interview with Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton in his catalogue for the Biennale called into question national frameworks invoked by the pavilion by interrogating the artist’s own Britishness (Kapoor still held an Indian passport at the time).28 He responded: 

I am Indian but to see everything in terms of nationality is limiting. I don’t see myself as an Indian artist; neither do I see myself as a British artist. I am an artist who works in Britain. The work has to be looked at from as wide a base as possible.29

At the same time, Kapoor was negotiating his “break” from the collective identity surrounding the Lisson Gallery’s stable of artists and was looking to assert his own brand identity amongst them. After nearly a decade of coming under the tag of “New British Sculpture”, the artist wanted to move away from the generic label which covered artists of different generations and practices, such as Tony Cragg, Bill Woodrow, Richard Deacon, Jean-Luc Vilmouth, Edward Allington, and Julian Opie—however much market success and establishment recognition they were receiving. The movement of British sculpture from the postwar context of abstraction to the “expanded field” in the 1960s and 1970s would see a shift towards punk and the rebelliousness of street culture along with the utilizing of everyday household goods.30 The pavilion in Venice had given a warm reception to these sculptors, and had showcased the work of British sculptor Tony Cragg, just two years earlier in 1988. With works like Red Indian (1982–83; not shown at the Biennale), a wall silhouette made of “useless” objects, Cragg sparked questions about the primitive and the appropriation of the racialized and marginalized “other” in institutional spaces, seen earlier in the 1970s with the work of Joseph Beuys. Generated and supported by a system of London galleries and bolstered by a series of exhibitions in Britain and internationally, the new generation of sculptors was supported by the burgeoning market of the 1980s. Kapoor’s work for the selection committee, although it had appeared to lag behind that of other sculptors for some years, had finally reached the stage of a major international solo exhibition, and with the success of the Lisson Gallery show in 1989, was seen to be mature and to have “come of age”.31


The choice of Kapoor to represent Britain in Venice was bolstered by the growth of “New British Sculpture” as much as it was questioned, and then later seemingly supported, by Rasheed Araeen.32 His The Other Story (1989), and touring show, The Essential Black Art, which opened at the Chisenhale Art Gallery in 1988, were both efforts to make minority artists more visible. The Black Arts movement in Britain was in full bloom through the 1980s, but was slow to receive the establishment recognition that would come later in various forms of exhibitions and via the success of individual careers.33 Kapoor’s own rejection of the exhibition has entered art-historical lore, but the timing between the pavilion of Venice and Araeen’s own curated venture on the South Bank makes the politics of one postcolonial artist and the other, Araeen, interesting in terms of the dispersed sense of British nationalism it suggested.34 Kapoor, in this respect, was already part of a wider mainstream owing to the mobility afforded to him by the world of British sculpture, and, on the whole, he chose not to participate in “Asian” shows (the one early exception was an exhibition organized by David Elliot, Victor Musgrave, and Ebrahim Alkazi during the Festival of India events in the UK in 1982).35 Kapoor was obviously sensitive to the issue of a racialized identity, recounting in an interview in 1990 that he was once asked in his early exhibitions if his sculpture smelled of “spices”.36 The call of the Minimalist environment was strong for Kapoor, and his attack on the white cube was still contained by the convention of form.


In February 1990, when the Iranian fatwa on fellow Mumbai-born Salman Rushdie (a friend and later collaborator of Kapoor’s in Blood Relations of 2006) was reinstated by Ayatollah Khameini, it was only a few months before the opening of Kapoor’s exhibition in Venice. Kapoor appears to have been removed from the upheavals of this world as much as he was from the industrial and everyday contexts highlighted by British sculpture that reacted to the legacy of Thatcherism. It would be the Young British Artists (YBAs) who would use this context more directly to conflate sculpture/conceptual art/Minimalism and the readymade into new configurations of middle-class taste, well removed from the sublimity of the sea and sky of Venice. By the end of the decade and throughout the next, a generation of YBA artists would also show there.37


Kapoor’s invitation to be the British representative of the country’s national pavilion in Venice in 1990 not only marked a turning point in British sculpture, but also in Kapoor’s own career, which would see him win the prestigious Turner Prize in 1991—similarly to Tony Cragg who had both accolades in 1988 (the 1990 Turner Prize, the year Kapoor exhibited in Venice, was not awarded due to the lack of funds). After nearly two decades of living and working in Britain, the artist had finally arrived. Dramatic entries and timed arrivals would continue to be part of Kapoor’s career trajectory, such as his timely arrival in India in 2010 (he had, however, been showing at New Delhi’s commercial India Art Fair—then called the India Art Summitsince 2009). After decades away from the land of his birth, Kapoor celebrated this return with his first ever exhibitions shared between the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and the Mehboob Studios in Mumbai. Kapoor had two solo exhibitions in the country at a moment when much of Europe was recovering from financial crisis and globalization continued to see developing markets as alluring.


Only a few years after penning the catalogue essay for Kapoor’s works in the British Pavilion, McEvilley would question the legacy of the Venice Biennale with the rise of “third world biennials”.38 Over the next two decades the global order would begin to shift. It would take, perhaps, until 2015, with the postcolonialist agenda of artistic director Okwui Enwezor at the LVI Venice Biennale, with its theme of “All the World’s Futures”, for political reckonings to take place and the unevenness of Modernism around the globe to be taken into account. Britain’s own representative, the YBA Sarah Lucas, with her ongoing rebellion against the white British middle class, appeared perhaps a decade too late. Enwezor sought to question the logic and purity of the Giardini, seeing the pavilions as the “ultimate site of a disordered world, of national conflicts, as well as territorial and geopolitical disfigurations”.39 His “Gardens of Disorder” brought globalism and multiculturalism as destabilizing forces into the space of the Giardini, in which we see the latent promise of Kapoor’s 1990 representation, and the more expansive logic of his selection, come to fruition. Kapoor, however, had already moved in another direction.




I would like to thank Henry Meyric-Hughes, Brett Rogers, Geeta Kapur, and Vivan Sundaram for the dialogue generated in London and New Delhi. My special thanks to Courtney J. Martin, Hana Leaper, and Maisoon Rehani in the various stages of production and for the images.

About the author

  • Rakhee Balaram

    Rakhee Balaram is Assistant Professor of Art & Art History at University at Albany, State University of New York. She has previously taught the history of art at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and at the University of Warwick. She is co-editor, along with Partha Mitter and Parul Dave-Mukherji, of a comprehensive survey of modern and contemporary Indian art, 20th-Century Indian Art (forthcoming, Skira). Balaram holds double doctorates in French Literature from Cambridge University and the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. In 2015–16, she is an Art Histories fellow, an initiative of the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence, and the Max Planck Institute, at the Forum Transregionale Studien, in Berlin, Germany. 


  1. Michael Newman, “New Sculpture in Britain”, Art in America 70 (Sept. 1982): 104–14, 177–78; and Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, “Anish Kapoor: Lisson Gallery”, Artforum 28, no. 7 (March 1990): 175–76. The exhibition at the Lisson Gallery took place from 1 Sept. 1989 to 4 Jan. 1990.

  2. An Indian, representing Britain—that’s an odd notion. Yes. It is an odd notion. I think they are amazingly courageous. I think there is a whole attitude that the British Council has towards artists working in this country as British artists irrespective of where they come from. Now I think that must be applauded.” “Anish Kapoor Interviewed by Douglas Maxwell”, Art Monthly 136 (May 1990): 11. According to Henry Meyric Hughes, Commissioner and Director at the British Council, much of the timeliness of the selection must be attributed to the committee that he sat on with Brett Rogers, Deputy Commissioner and Exhibitions Officer, Visual Arts Department of the British Council, and Nicholas Serota, in his first year as the Director of the Tate. Hughes believes that Serota had seen and been highly impressed by Kapoor’s work earlier at the Carnegie International in 1988. Also on the committee were Marina Vaizey, art critic for The Sunday Times, who had written previously on Kapoor’s work, and two or three other members. Henry Meyric Hughes, email communication, June 2015.

  3. Les Magiciens de la Terre was curated by Jean-Hubert Martin and took place from 18 May to 14 August 1989, at the Centre Georges Pompidou and Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris. The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain ran from 11 November 1989 to 2 April 1990 at the Hayward Gallery in London.

  4. Artists from Nigeria (El Anatsui, Bruce Onobrakpeya) and Zimbabwe (Tapfuma Gutsa, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Henry Munyaradzi) were included along with Aboriginal artists from Australia (Trevor Nickolls, Rover Thomas). Carandente regarded this selection as being distinctly different from Magiciens de la Terre, in so far as it did not “exalt” the primitive and ancestral, but rather foregrounded a “new form of dialogue with the Western world”. Giovanni Carandente, “XLIV Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Dimensione Futuro, The Artist and Space”, in Dimensione Futuro, L’artista e lo spazio, XLIV Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte La Biennale di Venezia, exh. cat. (Venice: Fabbri, 1990), 16.

  5. “Emptiness is not nothing. It is also no deficiency. In sculptural embodiment, emptiness plays in the manner of a seeking-projecting instituting of places.” Martin Heidegger, Art and Space, trans. Charles H. Seibert, Man and World 6, no. 1 (1973): 7.

  6. Carandente, “XLIV Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Dimensione Futuro”, 16.

  7. Henry Meyric Hughes, Brett Rogers, and Malcolm Hardy, “Foreword”, in Anish Kapoor: British Pavilion, XLIV Venice Biennale, May–September 1990 (London: The British Council, 1990), 8.

  8. Meyric Hughes, Rogers, and Hardy, “Foreword”.

  9. Anish Kapoor’s Void Field was included in his solo exhibition at the Lisson Gallery between 1 Sept. 1989–4 Jan. 1990.

  10. Brett Rogers recounted that the budget of roughly £250,000 for the show was also added to by private donations. The floor where Void Field was placed in the main gallery had to be structurally reinforced from below to accommodate the weight of the stones. Days before the opening, Kapoor decided to move the piece to a side gallery. The floor in that room also had to be reinforced at the same expense in order to accommodate the weight. In the end, Kapoor decided upon its original placement in the main gallery before the opening. Discussion with Brett Rogers, June 2015.

  11. See, for example, Andrew Renton, “Anish Kapoor: Lisson Gallery”, Flash Art 151 (March 1990): 151–52; and Allthorpe-Guyton, “Anish Kapoor: Lisson Gallery”, 175–76.

  12. Allthorpe-Guyton, “Anish Kapoor: Lisson Gallery”, 176.

  13. Allthorpe-Guyton, “Anish Kapoor: Lisson Gallery”, 176.

  14. Meyric Hughes, email communication, June 2015.

  15. Meyric Hughes, email communication, June 2015.

  16. Long would go on to win the Turner Prize that year in Britain.

  17. Jean Fisher, “The Other Story and the Past Imperfect”, Tate Papers 12 (2009): 1.

  18. See Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood”, Artforum 5 (June 1967): 12–23.

  19. “Anish Kapoor Interviewed by Douglas Maxwell”, 6–12. It is worth citing that Yves Klein’s own engagement with performance was influenced by Japan. Robert Godet, whose apartment on the Ile Saint-Louis was the early site of Klein’s first anthropometry performance, was one of his key supporters. Godet, a follower of George Gurdjieff, was heavily engaged with Eastern philosophy and thought. He would die in a plane accident in Benares in 1960.

  20. Kapoor mentions in an interview that this was deliberate on the artist’s part. “Some of the things you make are pretty damned large and pretty damned heavy. Does the thought: where is this going to end up, bother you? Pigment pieces makes them difficult to own and to domesticate. I feel that is quite important.” See “Anish Kapoor Interviewed by Douglas Maxwell”, 10.

  21. Meyric Hughes, email communication, June 2015. The work was probably A Wing at the Heart of Things (1990).

  22. Anish Kapoor interview with Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, “Mostly Hidden”, in Anish Kapoor: The British Council 1990.

  23. Denis Vidal, “The Return of the Aura: Anish Kapoor, the Studio and the World”, in Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalizing World, ed. Raminder Kaur and Parul Dave-Mukherji (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 43.

  24. Michael Newman, “Discourse and Desire: Recent British Sculpture”, Flash Art 115 (1984): 48–55. In 1989, Shirazeh Houshiary took part in Jean-Hubert Martin’s exhibition, Magiciens de la Terre.

  25. Homi Bhahba commented in 1999: “Looking back on ten years of writing about his [Anish Kapoor’s] work, you find this all the time. If he uses blue pigment, first there is a reference to Yves Klein; a paragraph later there is somehow a Lord Krishna reference; another paragraph later and you’re having an experience with the Elephant Kings of Bombay. The references continually move in that direction, as if the work does not signify as a sign itself. The work of diasporic artists must be authenticated through some sort of biographical/cultural reference.” See Homi Bhahba, “Chillava Klatch: Shahzia Sikander Interviewed by Homi Bhabha”, in Shahzia Sikander, exh. cat. (Chicago, IL: Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 1999), 18.

  26. Thomas McEvilley, “The Darkness Inside a Stone”, in Anish Kapoor: The British Council 1990, 43–51.

  27. I’ve never met anybody who’s Indian and also Jewish. Is your Jewishness a strong thing with you? I think it is. All of these things are avenues into a whole cultural world which is very rich. I wish I could have been Christian and Buddhist as well. That would have been perfect.” “Anish Kapoor Interviewed by Douglas Maxwell”, 6.

  28. Kapoor still held an Indian passport at the time of the Venice Biennale. He had applied unsuccessfully for British citizenship around 1986. Meyric Hughes, email correspondence, June 2015.

  29. Allthorpe-Guyton, “Mostly Hidden”, 48.

  30. Newman, “New Sculpture in Britain”, 104–14.

  31. Discussion with Brett Rogers, June 2015.

  32. Rasheed Araeen, “Inverted Racism?”, Art Monthly 306 (2007): 39–40.

  33. David A. Bailey, Sonia Boyce, Ian Baucom, eds., Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); and Eddie Chambers, Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present (London: I. B. Tauris, 2014).

  34. Not all critics were generous with their praise for the two concurrent exhibitions. Some were reactionary. Giles Auty, art critic of the conservative Spectator magazine, was cynical about the status of “minorities living in alien cultures”, equating the more “political” works included in The Other Story to “sixth-form projects”. Auty mentions that Kapoor was not commenting on his “non-inclusion” in Araeen’s show, and acknowledges the mysticism of his stone works at the Lisson Gallery (which nonetheless fell short of Michelangelo) as well as his upcoming participation at the Venice Biennale. See Giles Auty, “The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain, Hayward Gallery till 4 February & Anish Kapoor, Lisson Gallery till 4 January”, Spectator, 16 Dec. 1989.

  35. See India: Myth and Reality Aspects of Modern Indian Art, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, as part of the 1982 Festival of India in the UK. Artists shown were split between the Progressives or Moderns (M. F. Husain, F. N. Souza, Satish Gujral, S. H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, Mohan Samant, Tyeb Mehta, K. G. Subramanyan), and the Contemporary artists, which included Krishen Khanna, A. Ramachandran, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Jogen Chowdhury, Rameshwar Broota, Ranbir Singh Kaleka, Gieve Patel, Sudhir Pathwardhan, Nalini Malani, Mrinalini Mukherjee, and Anish Kapoor.

  36. Ameena Meer, “Anish Kapoor”, BOMB 30 (Winter 1990).

  37. This would include Rachel Whiteread (1997), Gary Hume (1999), Mark Wallinger (2001), Chris Ofili (2003), Tracey Emin (2007), and Sarah Lucas (2015).

  38. Thomas McEvilley, “Arrivederci Venice: The Third World Biennials”, Artforum International 32, no. 3 (1993): 114–16.

  39. Okwui Enwezor, “Statement of Okwui Enwezor”. See



Allthorpe-Guyton, Marjorie. “Anish Kapoor: Lisson Gallery.” Artforum 28, no. 7 (March 1990): 175–76.

– – –. “Mostly Hidden.” In Anish Kapoor: British Pavilion, XLIV Venice Biennale, May–September 1990. London: The British Council, 1990.

Araeen, Rasheed. “Inverted Racism?” Art Monthly 306 (2007): 39–40.

Auty, Giles. “The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain, Hayward Gallery till 4 February & Anish Kapoor, Lisson Gallery till 4 January.” Spectator, 16 Dec. 1989.

Bailey, David A., Sonia Boyce, and Ian Baucom, eds. Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

Bhahba, Homi. “Chillava Klatch: Shahzia Sikander Interviewed by Homi Bhabha.” In Shahzia Sikander. Exh. cat. Chicago, IL: Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 1999, 18.

Carandente, Giovanni. “XLIV Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Dimensione Futuro, The Artist and Space.” in Dimensione Futuro, L’artista e lo spazio, XLIV Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte La Biennale di Venezia. Exh. cat. Venice: Fabbri, 1990.

Chambers, Eddie. Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present. London: I. B. Tauris, 2014.

Fisher, Jean. “The Other Story and the Past Imperfect.” Tate Papers 12 (2009): 1–10.

Fried, Michael. “Art and Objecthood.” Artforum 5 (June 1967): 12–23.

Heidegger, Martin. Art and Space. Trans. Charles H. Seibert. Man and World 6, no. 1 (1973): 3–8.

Maxwell, Douglas. “Anish Kapoor Interviewed by Douglas Maxwell.” Art Monthly 136 (May 1990): 6–12.

McEvilley, Thomas. “Arrivederci Venice: The Third World Biennials.” Artforum International 32, no. 3 (1993): 114–16.

­– – –. “The Darkness Inside a Stone.” In Anish Kapoor: British Pavilion, XLIV Venice Biennale, May–September 1990. London: The British Council, 1990, 43–51.

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Rakhee Balaram
18 July 2016
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Peer Reviewed (Editorial Group)
CC BY-NC International 4.0
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Rakhee Balaram, "With the Void, Full Powers: Anish Kapoor and the Venice Biennale of 1990", British Art Studies, Issue 3,