I was not at all familiar with Anish Kapoor’s work before, but I saw an article about the 2011 edition of the Monumenta and figured it was worth checking out – with the kids too! Since about 2008, the Grand Palais has welcomed sculpteurs to fill space under the massive domes of the interior of the Grand Palais. I believe this is the first one I have seen. That being said, there have been two or three events inside this space including a humongous Ferris Wheel two winters ago and I was really intrigued with I saw photos of the current exhibit.
The sculpture is a incredibly huge, apparently air filled leather or vinyl sac (couldn’t really tell what the material was) that almost entirely fills the Palace interior. It is a sort of eggplant purple and sort of shiny. It is sort of three connected spheres at least 30m in diameter. You feel completely dwarfed when you stand under it. Actually, it sort of reminds me of a French/Belgian comic book series (Antares / Betelgeuse) which had these mega-huge aliens. Or perhaps of the worm in Dune. It was impossible not to be somewhat taken back just by the scale of it. I really wondered how he build it – it was probably never mounted before getting here to Paris but I can’t be sure. It also gives you a better appreciation for the scale of the Grand Palais itself.
There are several things other than the size that are interesting about this work. The texture of the sculpture and the play of light from the glass ceiling of the palace (biggest glass/steel dome in the world I believe) are captivating. The sound, both inside when you enter the exhibit and feel like Noah in the whale’s belly and outside with the echos under the dome and when pressing your ear against the sculpture a sort of whale heartbeat are equally fascinating. There is a general feeling of being nearly insignificant next to this behemoth. Clearly the name “Leviathan” is well-chosen because so many aspects of it remind one of a whale. There is also the sensation of being in a womb when you are inside the sculpture. Or a heart. Hard to describe – you have to check it out for yourselves.
I think that I will be a little more curious about Anish Kapoor because I really liked this piece and wonder about his other work. Leviathan is definitely worth the €5 entrance fee if you are around before it deflates on June 23.