Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy


We nipped along to the Royal Academy over the weekend to check out the Anish Kapoor show that opened there recently. 

The show collects together a few of Kapoor's early pieces, including some of the pigment works from the 80s; as well as two of his amorphous works: When I Am Pregnant (1992), and Yellow (1999). 

The rest of the exhibition is made up of work from the past three years. Of these, there are a range of mirror pieces, the Non-Object series, which are like a hall of mirrors for grown-ups; and three large site-specific installations. The largest of these, Svayambh (2007), takes up five rooms in the gallery, and is an immense thirty-ton block of wax that inches its way on tracks through a series of the Academy's arched doorways.

The companion to this is Shooting into the Corner (2008-2009), in which a canon is fired at twenty minute intervals, shooting twenty pound shells of red wax from one room into another, in the process splattering the walls, floor and ceiling of the gallery with wax shrapnel.

All in all it's an intriguingly visceral show, with the installations working particularly well in the classical spaces of the Royal Academy. Unfortunately, our experience of it was hampered by a rather rigidly enforced no-photography policy, with gallery attendants actually shouting at anyone they saw trying to take a picture. We just don't get why galleries do this. We emailed the Academy to ask about it, and Vistitor Services Manager Natasha Bennett replied:

"Photography is not permitted in the Anish Kapoor exhibition owing to copyright issues. I am sorry if this affected your enjoyment of the exhibition but this is standard in loan exhibitions, as the Royal Academy of Arts does not own the works."

To our mind it's a damn shame, preventing visitors from interacting with the work in a creative way. And since you can photograph one of the works in the gallery's courtyard, surely it can't hurt to let people photograph all of the works. After all, people are going to take pictures anyway, as this Flickr search happily reveals.

  • I wholeheartedly agree. I have visited the Milan furniture fair on many occasions, and been shouted at and threatened with ejection after taking photographs of chairs on public display. The worst of all were Kartell, with a team of five or six toughguys enforcing the rule. Ironically, they also hand out free catalogues with hundreds of detailed photos of each product on the way out.

  • philip sky

    Drives me mad too. I went yesterday, travelling from Wales so I can’t just pop in again like you Londoners. Its not as if there is a single view of these artworks that needs some protection from travesty. I’ll send you one of the pics. I took before I got harangued by the custodians under seperate cover.