So I saw the Anish Kapoor show at Mehboob Studio last evening, and was a bit underwhelmed. The selection consists of six mirror sculptures and two works in red wax. I had hoped for more varied fare that would give Bombayites a flavour of the artist's output over the years.
The sound stage is very atmospheric, but creates problems in display. The extremely high ceiling reduces the experiential scale of the art, and therefore its effect. The floor is not perfectly level, and so plywood chips have been inserted underneath sculptures to keep their balance right. In one instance -- a sinuous mirror wall that evokes Richard Serra -- this looks really tacky, because the sculpture is thin and the chips protrude from beneath it. As for the shiny wall-hung pieces, I've never been a huge fan of those.
The wax sculptures were by far the best part of the exhibition. But even the excellent Shooting into a Corner, which is bound to be the most popular exhibit, didn't work as well for me at Mehboob Studio as it had at Kapoor's Royal Academy survey. It consists of a cannon that periodically shoots a large plug of red wax onto a wall. The sound of the cannon going off echoes perfectly in the large hall; but the white wall has been purpose built, and extends only a few feet in each direction from the corner towards which the wax is shot. The sense of violation of a space that contributes to the work's impact is undercut by the manifest artificiality of the setting.
It appears the Delhi show might actually work better than the Bombay one, contrary to what I have suggested in my Tehelka piece. If that's the case, I'll be really angry, because Bombay is Kapoor's home town, and this is where he had always planned to have his first extensive exhibition. Kapoor, a savvy businessman as well as a fine artist, doubtless knows the benefits that could accrue from having an exhibition at the NGMA inaugurated by Sonia Gandhi.
Now for the gossip: there were quite a few Bollywood personalities at last evening's preview, as befits an event at Mehboob Studio presented by Louis Vuitton. The males -- Kabir Bedi, Shekhar Kapur, Rahul Bose -- all spent long minutes in front of the artworks, discussing them with companions. The women -- Kangana Ranaut, Mallika Arora (Update: Malaika, not Mallika, thanks Deepanajana) and somebody who apparently was Kareena Kapoor (I was too far away to get a proper look) -- were only interested in being photographed in front of the art and with the artist. I don't blame them: it's impossible to concentrate on art wearing the sort of dresses they were wearing. Ranaut looked gorgeous, but kept tripping over her gown. (Update: It was Karishma Kapoor; no wonder I thought it didn't look much like Kareena)
Securitymen have been placed next to each work, warning viewers off when they are deemed too close. I was thus warned about five times in the two hours I spent at the preview. It got pretty annoying. Plus the air conditioning wasn't functioning well. Luckily, I was wearing a shirt and jeans, the chaps in suits were in bad shape.