October 15, 2011


Each year Monumenta invites an internationally-renowned artist to turn their vision to the vast Nave of Paris' Grand Palais and to create a new artwork especially for this space. MONUMENTA is an artistic interaction on an unparalleled scale, filling 13,500 sqmt and a height of 35 metres. For its fourth year, the French Ministry for Culture and Communication invited Anish Kapoor, one of his generation's greatest artists, to produce a new work for the Nave's monumental space, from May 11 to June 23, 2011. 

Tanish Kapoor decribed his concept as “A single object, a single form, a single colour.” “My ambition,” he said, “is to create a space within a space that responds to the height and luminosity of the Nave at the Grand Palais. Visitors will be invited to walk inside the work, to immerse themselves in colour, and it will, I hope, be a contemplative and poetic experience.”

Anish Kapoor’s gigantic sculpture, Leviathan, is a result of this. The artwork consists of three linked spheres that stretch 35 yards into the air, which you can enter and walk around inside. The project has, from inception, been huge. Leviathan was, over the past two years, engineered in Britain and designed in Italy, while Kapoor turned to French textile manufacturers Serge Ferrari (who also worked on Marsyas) to create the uniquely tinted and light-sensitive fabric that was painstakingly inflated to fill more than half of the Grand Palais.

The exhibition, which the artist has dedicated to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, has received more than 250,000 visitors. MOA features some views on this monumental artwork.

Anish Kapoor: Leviathan, Monumenta 2011, Grand Palais, Paris, review

Mark Hudson,, May 11, 2011

While Kapoor has stated that the work’s title. ‘Leviathan’, was inspired by the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes’s idea of the state as an unwieldy, inchoate monster, he has advised against over-literal interpretations. First and foremost the piece is a play of structure and scale that alludes to the idea of the cathedral: the body as living, breathing sacred space, inside a structure that is literally cathedral-like. If the scale is overwhelming and megalomanic, there’s a humour to the piece that feels very human. In the past I’ve never been entirely convinced by Kapoor’s work, feeling him to be more a planner of grandiose and rather soulless projects than an artist in the real sense, but in this instance he completely won me over.

Sculptor Kapoor unleashes whale-like monster on Paris

Vicky Buffery, Reuters, May 10, 2011

Inside Leviathan, the viewer is invited to take part in a physical and mental experience, a sensory immersion in a translucent membrane designed to interact with the architecture of the building in which it is housed.

The red glow is created by daylight flooding from the nave's glass roof and through the sculpture's tent-like walls, and its intensity, as well as the temperature in the cavity, vary as clouds pass over the sun.

From the outside, however, Leviathan offers a completely different experience, a feeling of awe at the overwhelming scale of the bulbous, rubber-like installation, which stands 35 meters (yards) high and fills the entire 35,000 sq meters (376,700 sq ft) of the nave.

"For me, this huge archaic force is linked to darkness. It is a monster burdened with its corpse, which stands guard over some forgotten regions of our conscience," Kapoor explains.

Perhaps reminiscent of the intimate, womb-like interior, however, there is still something faintly erotic about the outside of the sculpture and it is hard to shake off the feeling one is looking at a giant, three-balled massage device, rather than a mythical sea-monster.

But as Kapoor says in a blurb on his work: "I think there is no such thing as an innocent viewer. All viewing, all looking comes with complications, comes with previous histories, a more or less real past."

Anish Kapoor: Leviathan

by Caroline Menezes,

Poetically playing with a pre-modern design and ancient myths, Kapoor has once again proved that his artistic endeavour is key to understanding the path that sculpture in taking in the 21st century.

A Tame "Leviathan": Why Anish Kapoor's Gargantuan Grand Palais Commission Falls Flat

Nicolai Hartvig, Artinfo, France, May 13, 2011 

"Leviathan" could be meditative if it succeeded in either stimulating a particular sense — or depriving us of them all. Frustratingly, the work falls somewhere in the middle, tamely starting something it refuses to finish. Whether you feel off-balance, contemplative or anything else will likely depend on whether you believe the hype around the artwork and have tricked your mind into acting in accordance with expectations. Inside "Leviathan," little is offered.

The void of impression could be a goal in itself. Kapoor has pitched Leviathan as a "cathedral of the body," and cathedrals are mostly places of quiet worship. The artist has also suggested that this "monster burdened with its corpse ... stands guard over some forgotten regions of our conscience." "Leviathan" could then be an extension of personal space, but the work seems to stifle this, cocooning you in numbness — and leaving whichever soul-searching you may do to be invaded and interrupted by up to 270 other visitors.

The second half of the experience comes when walking around the exterior of the immense spheres, and underneath their inaccessible corridors of connected membrane, offering a full view of the work that has barely squeezed into the Grand Palais and mimics the venue's three-point, clover-like plan. The sight is impressive and the venue, with its classic industrial-deco details, lends itself well to the installation. But its interrogation of full and empty space is again preempted by the simplicity and lack of intent in the design — wherever you go, "Leviathan" remains a big balloon. There is a sense of missed opportunity when it comes to any juxtaposition of the inner self and the outer self that could be mirrored in the two different experiences of "Leviathan." Without an inner part, the necessary action-reaction cannot materialize.

The suggestion of some kind of statement about an equilibrium between presence and absence is the closest Kapoor comes to a statement with "Leviathan" — but the final destination is an uncomfortable nothingness. As a celebration of transitory moments or a trigger to investigate personal hidden worlds, the experience is not particularly gripping. "Leviathan" is not quite a big disappointment, at least not as big as the work itself — but unless you are particularly excited about the thought of walking around inside a giant rubber bouncy ball, you won't be amazed by this work.

Leviathan: Views