The Unique Challenges of Installing Contemporary Sculpture: An Anish Kapoor Case Study
By Dennis Callahan
The internationally famous artist Anish Kapoor may not be a household name, yet, but here in Chicago his monumental sculpture Cloud Gate (aka ‘The Bean’) might be.
Callahan art & Associates has a few collectors who own a number of Kapoor’s works. Of course they are smaller than Cloud Gate but all are just as polished and technically sophisticated. When it comes to installing them in a home, they present complex and unique challenges. Kapoor’s own notorious demands for perfection create a high bar many installers cannot meet.
One of our clients owns a wonderful small sculpture from Kapoor's Void series. It presents itself as an enigmatic, perfectly circular, nearly black, spatially boundless hole in a wall. The success of this illusion depends entirely on the mounting and installation of the work. Mountmaking and installation are two things almost no one would consider when viewing art, but I strongly believe the success of a mount for a sculpture and the installation of a work of art can be measured inversely by the amount of attention they call to themselves.
Mountmaking can be broken down to design, engineering and fabrication. The design for Void required that it appear not to be hung behind the wall but to exist on the same surface plane as the wall. So we had to eliminate the thickness of the drywall at the point of contact (figures 1. & 2.). When engineering a mount our primary concerns are archival safety, and reversability. We often start with Michaelangelo’s understanding of how the human body supports itself and holds an object. In this case we arrived at two simple steel rings on a precision adjustable track to hold the sphere (figures 3. & 4.). We fabricate all our mounts in our metal shop. This ensures our high standards are met and small modifications can be resolved before we test each mount in our shop (figures 5. & 6.).
The final installation required expert drywall and plastering skills. It also required the safe execution of these trades while working with the art. Our Certified Art Handlers are also highly skilled in many trades and were up to the challenge (figures 7 & 8 (at top of page)). The finished installation came out beautifully. In fact, I am sure no one thinks about the mount or installation when looking into this abyss (Figure 9.). The structural integrity of the mount also exceeded expectations. The client called me later to share a story of a 10 year old boy who reached into the “Void” and lifted himself up by it to peer inside! The mount and the plaster did not fail!
If you want to watch a video of the whole process, click here.