Anish Kapoor’s whirlpool – Everything you need to know

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, Courtesy Kapoor Studio e Kamel Mennour 1, photo Silvia Neri
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, 2015
Photo: Silvia Neri

Introduction

This installation by Anish Kapoor is a depiction of the fluidity and motion of water as a liquid mass and the void into which it descends. Descension is an impressive sculpture that depicts water’s continuous swirling motion as it rushes down an 8m (26-ft) diameter vortex representing a powerful physical form that is sucked into the earth. This art piece induces a mesmerized feeling in the audience when viewing the perpetual black water being pulled down into an unknown interior. Descension also induces a visceral feeling like the center is an abyss that seems bottomless and which sucks the water that spins into a vortex as it descends into this abyss. As such, the installation conveys different meanings and feelings based on the viewer’s own experiences. For instance, while some may view it as a transience of humanity’s existence, to others, it looks like a portal into a different world or even, a window into the past or future.

‘Decension’ at Château de Versailles, France, 2015

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, photo Tadzio
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, 2015
Photo: Tadzio

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, Versailles, 2015, © ADAGP Anish Kapoor, photo Fabrice Seixas
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, 2015
© ADAGP Anish Kapoor, photo Fabrice Seixas

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, Versailles, 2015
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, 2015

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, Courtesy Kapoor Studio e Kamel Mennour 1, photo Silvia Neri
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, 2015
Photo: Silvia Neri

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, photo Tadzio
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Château de Versailles, 2015
Photo: Tadzio

The whirlpool & politics

According to Kapoor, the pool is also a representation of the current state of affairs in America regarding politics for which he is vocal about. Indeed, the artist has since formed a coalition of over 200 creatives to engage in art exhibitions aimed at confronting right-wing populism. Dubbed ‘Hands off Our Revolution,’ the coalition will use contemporary art forms in its exhibitions.

‘Decension’ at Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, 2017

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017, photo James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017
Photo: James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017, photo James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017
Photo: James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017, photo James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017
Photo: James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017, photo James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, New York, 2017
Photo: James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY

How does it work?

The work was created using pipes and was powered by a recirculating discharge pump. The pull of the water descending into unknowable depths attracts the audience and activates their perceptions as they try to guess what’s beyond the vortex that pulls the water in such a spinning vortex fashion. The installation was surrounded by a railing to enable viewers to peer into the depths of the whirlpool. Like in all his works, Anish Kapoor makes use of ordinary materials and elements to create art that induces a strong feeling in viewers. In this case, he used water and artificial black dye to create the effect of swirling motion and a seemingly bottomless pool into which the water spins. Later, he did away with black dye to leave the water in its natural color as a resemblance to the water in the East River of Brooklyn, New York.

Destruction of Anish Kapoor's Descension, 2014. In the foreground installation for soil drainage, Château de Versailles, photo T. Lefebvre
Destruction of Anish Kapoor’s Descension, 2014. In the foreground installation for soil drainage, Château de Versailles
Photo: T. Lefebvre

‘Decension’ at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy, 2015

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy, 2015
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy, 2015

Anish Kapoor - Descension, 2014, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy, 2015
Anish Kapoor – Descension, 2014, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy, 2015

About Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor was born in 1954 in India’s Mumbai area and moved to London in the early 1970s where he attended art school and continues to live and create inventive art. He created artworks using materials such as stone, stainless steel, resin, raw pigment, wax and synthetic polymer among others while also displaying a healthy obsession with water as a sculptural potential as seen in Descension.

Portrait of Anish Kapoor in front of Descension, 2014, photo Ela Bialkowska
Portrait of Anish Kapoor in front of Descension, 2014
Photo: Ela Bialkowska

Video: Anish Kapoor talks about ‘Descension’

3min 13sec

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