Ear Plugs Provided as Kapoor Cannon Flings Wax in Berlin

Tap for Slideshow
Photographer: Jens Ziehe/Martin Gropius Bau/Anish Kapoor via Bloomberg

"Symphony for a Beloved Sun" by sculptor Anish Kapoor, installed in the skylit central courtyard of the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. The exhibition "Kapoor in Berlin," which shows 70 of his works, runs through Nov. 24.

Close
Photographer: Jens Ziehe/Martin Gropius Bau/Anish Kapoor via Bloomberg

"Symphony for a Beloved Sun" by sculptor Anish Kapoor, installed in the skylit central courtyard of the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. The exhibition "Kapoor in Berlin," which shows 70 of his works, runs through Nov. 24. Close

"Symphony for a Beloved Sun" by sculptor Anish Kapoor, installed in the skylit central courtyard of the Martin... Read More

Photographer: Nic Tenwiggenhorn/Martin Gropius Bau/Anish Kapoor via Bloomberg

"Shooting Into the Corner" (2008-09) by Anish Kapoor. The work, now on show at the Martin Gropius Bau, features a cannon firing bullets made of wine-red wax, which builds up in a messy pile on the floor. Close

"Shooting Into the Corner" (2008-09) by Anish Kapoor. The work, now on show at the Martin Gropius Bau, features a... Read More

Photographer: Jens Ziehe/Martin Gropius Bau/Anish Kapoor via Bloomberg

"The Death of Leviathan" by Anish Kapoor, made of inflated PVC. It is a new work created for the Martin Gropius Bau. Close

"The Death of Leviathan" by Anish Kapoor, made of inflated PVC. It is a new work created for the Martin Gropius Bau.

Photographer: Mark Power/Magnum Photos/Martin Gropius Bau via Bloomberg

Anish Kapoor at his studio in London in 2012. Kapoor's work, including a cannon shooting wax bullets and a gigantic sun in the main courtyard, is on show at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin through Nov. 24. Close

Anish Kapoor at his studio in London in 2012. Kapoor's work, including a cannon shooting wax bullets and a gigantic... Read More

Our hands fly to our ears as a deafening blast reverberates through the halls of the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin.

A cannon is firing heavy bullets of burgundy wax into a corner in test runs before the opening of an exhibition of the sculptor Anish Kapoor. They splat against a pristine white wall and form a slimy pile on the polished floorboards.

A child who created this kind of noise and mess at home would be in trouble. A license to play, though, is the essence of being an artist for 59-year-old Kapoor. It’s part of “the process of coming to meaning,” he told a group of art critics during a break from putting finishing touches to the show.

At his latest playground, visitors will be offered ear plugs before contemplating “Shooting Into the Corner.” The cannon has to be loaded manually and will fire about every 40 minutes. It is extremely loud.

Red wax and pigments, mirrors and machines, movement and sculptures that develop and change are recurring themes in this spectacular -- and playful -- exhibition. “Kapoor in Berlin” comprises about 70 works and runs through Nov. 24.

The centerpiece is “Symphony for a Beloved Sun,” which takes over the sky-lighted central courtyard of the Martin Gropius Bau, a 19th-century museum. A flat, wine-red disc on a stand reaches 18 meters (59 feet) high, surrounded by four conveyor belts tipped up toward it, as though in salutation.

Real Sun

Slabs of burgundy wax move slowly up the chutes, pitch over the edge, and land on the floor with a thud. Lit only by the real sun shining through the skylights, the work struck me as more of a requiem than a symphony, almost apocalyptic.

The color suggests a dying sun, a dark reflection of the real thing. The work must also allude to Olafur Eliasson’s “Weather Project,” a giant yellow sun that the Danish-Icelandic artist installed in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2003 and encouraged millions of visitors to bathe in its light. (Eliasson also exhibited in the Martin Gropius Bau in 2010, building a palace of mirrors and light in the hall.)

Kapoor said he is “much more interested in darkness where others are more interested in light.” His sun reflects stormier, more crisis-ridden times than Eliasson’s. It refuses to invite or enchant; instead it unsettles and asks questions.

“The Death of Leviathan” is a huge, largely deflated pile of brown PVC that sprawls from one room to another. Leviathan is a biblical monster that the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes used as a metaphor for the power of the state.

Dead Monster

Here Kapoor is referencing his own work: His “Leviathan” in the Grand Palais in Paris in 2011 was a walk-in balloon whose reddish interior suggested a human belly. He dedicated that work to Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist who was at that time in custody without having been charged with any offense.

Kapoor refuses to interpret his work.

“Do I know what I am trying to say?” he asked. “No. Do I want to know what I am trying to say? No.”

He realizes, he said, that his outsize PVC sculpture proposes the idea of the death of the state.

“I didn’t set out to do that,” he said.

(Catherine Hickley writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Richard Vines on food, Robert Heller on rock music and Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater.

To contact the reporter on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at chickley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.