Art | January 4, 2024 |

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal
Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi
October 07, 2023 – February 04, 2024

Celebrated artist Anish Kapoor creates an original dialogue with Palazzo Strozzi in Florence through a major exhibition including an immersive new work for its Renaissance Courtyard Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is pleased to announce Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal, a major new exhibition devised and produced with the celebrated artist who has revolutionised the notion of sculpture in contemporary art. Curated by Arturo Galansino, Director General of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, the show will feature monumental installations, intimate environments and thought-provoking forms that will forge an original and captivating dialogue between the art of Anish Kapoor and the architecture and audience of Palazzo Strozzi. With a wide range of early, mid-career and recent works, including a new architecturally scaled work especially conceived for the Renaissance courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi, the exhibition offers an opportunity to engage directly with the artist’s oeuvre in all its versatility, discord, entropy and ephemerality. Palazzo Strozzi becomes a venue at once concave and convex, whole and yet fragmented, in which visitors are called on to question their senses.

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

In Anish Kapoor‘s art, the unreal merges with the untrue, transforming or negating the common perception of reality. He invites us to explore a world where the boundaries between what is true and false dissolve, opening the doors to the realm of the impossible. One of the distinguishing features is the way Kapoor’s works transcend their materiality. Pigment, stone, steel, wax and silicone, to name only a few of the materials he works with, are manipulated – carved, polished, saturated and formed – to the point of a dissolution of boundaries between the plastic and the immaterial. Colour in Kapoor’s hands is not simply matter and hue, but becomes an immersive phenomenon, containing its own spatial and illusive volume.

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

Kapoor’s works merge empty and full space, absorbing and reflecting surface, geometrical and biomorphic form. Shunning categorisation and distinguishing himself by a unique visual language that embraces painting, sculpture and architectural forms, Kapoor explores space and time, the interior and the exterior, urging us to probe in the first person the limits and potential of our relationship with the world around us and to reflect on perceived dualities such as body and mind, nature and artifice. His work sparks amazement and uneasiness, encouraging us to question certainties and embrace complexity. In a world where reality seems increasingly elusive and manipulable, Anish Kapoor challenges us to seek truth beyond appearances, inviting us to explore the territory of the untrue and the unreal.

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

Arturo Galansino, General Director of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation and curator of the exhibition states: “In the wake of our series of exhibitions dedicated to the leading figures of contemporary art, Kapoor has engaged in a direct dialogue with the Renaissance architecture. The result is entirely original, almost a kind of dialectical juxtaposition, where symmetry, harmony, and rigor are called into question, and the boundaries between material and immaterial dissolve. Amidst the rational geometries of Palazzo Strozzi, Kapoor invites us in this exhibition to lose and rediscover ourselves, prompting us to question what is untrue or unreal.”

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal unfolds in the spaces of Palazzo Strozzi in between the galleries at the Piano Nobile and the Renaissance courtyard, in a journey through Kapoor’s diverse artistic practice that challenges the very notion of form and formlessness, fiction and reality. At the centre of the courtyard stands Void Pavilion VII (2023), a large pavilion that serves as both a point of departure and arrival in the dialogue between Kapoor’s art and Palazzo Strozzi. Upon entering the sculpture, visitors are confronted by a triad of rectangular voids that invite the gaze to descend within, offering a meditative experience of space, perspective and time that unsettles the rational geometric structure of the Renaissance building in which it sits and the orderliness it so emblematically represents.

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

At the Piano Nobile, the exhibition takes off with the iconic work Svayambhu (2007), a title that derives from the Sanskrit term denoting self-originated entities, akin to the Christian concept of acheropoieta, images not made by human hands. As this vast block of blood-red wax moves slowly along its track between two rooms of Palazzo Strozzi, it creates a dialectic between void and matter as its formless substance is shaped by the architecture it pushes through. This work is presented in dialogue with Endless Column (1992), a work that references Constantin Brâncuși’s iconic modernist sculpture of the same title from 1937. Kapoor’s red pigment sculpture penetrates floor and ceiling to create an aethereal architectural physicality that stands as a link between earth and cosmos. On a different scale but equally architectural is To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red (1981), a seminal work from Kapoor’s early career that marked his breakthrough on the international art scene as a profoundly original voice in contemporary art. A suggestive combination of yellow and red pigment forms, appear to emerge from the floor—fragile, otherworldly, yet powerfully present.

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

In Non-Object Black (2015) – characterised by the use of the highly innovative material Vantablack, capable of absorbing over 99.9% of visible light – Kapoor challenges the very idea of a physical and tangible object, presenting us with a form that dissipates as the gaze moves around it. In these groundbreaking works Kapoor provokes us to question the very notion of being, offering a reflection not only on the fictional object but on the immateriality that permeates our world. The fullness of the experience of the no-thing is continued in Gathering Clouds (2014), concave monochromes that absorb the space around them in their brooding darkness. Kapoor’s work offers a new way of seeing and thinking about how we experience ‘reality’, with his unique use of form and saturation these works are permeated with psychic resonance.

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

Flesh, organic matter, body and blood are recurring and fundamental themes in Kapoor’s artistic creation. An entire room is dedicated to works in which Kapoor examines a flayed and ravaged interiority that renders the body as entropic and abjected. The large sculpture in steel and resin A Blackish Fluid Excavation (2018) evokes a gnarled vaginal void, that crosses the space and the senses of the spectator. On the wall, Kapoor’s paintings created with silicone are shaped with fluid forms that appear to us as visceral masses, pulsating with their own life. These structures twist, expand, and contract, evoking a sense of continuous movement and transformation. At the same time, a strong tactile sensuality arises from the interplay between softness and solidity, organicity and linearity. These qualities underlie works with evocative titles such as First Milk (2015), Tongue Memory (2016), Today You Will Be in Paradise (2016), Three Days of Mourning (2016).

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

The notion of boundaries and the duality between subject and object are central to Kapoor’s mirror works like Vertigo (2006), Mirror (2018) and Newborn (2019), a work that again pays homage to Constantin Brâncuși’s formal experiments. With their inverted reflections, the specular is thrown into the realm of the illusory in works that seem to defy the laws of physics. These large-scale sculptures reflect and distort the surrounding space, enlarging, reducing and multiplying it, creating a sense of unreality and destabilization while drawing the viewer into the indefinite space they emanate. The exhibition path of the Piano Nobile concludes with Angel (1990): large slate stones covered in numerous layers of intense Prussian blue pigment. These weighty masses appear in contradiction with their ethereal appearance; they seem to solidify the air and suggest the transformation of slate slabs into pieces of sky, transfiguring the concept of purity into a material element. Kapoor manipulates the hyper-materiality of this work to evoke a sense of mystery that responds to the esoteric ambition of achieving the fusion of opposites.

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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

The exhibition is promoted and organised by Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi. Main Supporter: Fondazione CR Firenze. Main Partner: Intesa Sanpaolo. Supporters: Comune di Firenze, Regione Toscana, Camera di Commercio di Firenze, Comitato dei Partner di Palazzo Strozzi. With the contribution of Città Metropolitana di Firenze. With the support of Maria Manetti Shrem and Fondazione Hillary Merkus Recordati. Thanks to Galleria Continua the exhibition is part of the Florence Art Week, an initiative promoted by the City of Florence and scheduled from 28 September to 8 October 2023.


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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi
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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi
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Image courtesy of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi

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