Where abstract art meets local heritage
The juxtaposition of contemporary art with one of Britain’s finest stately homes makes a suitably grand impression - and the work of Anish Kapoor is perfectly suited to the beauty of Houghton Hall
Anish Kapoor is one of the most influential sculptors of his generation. The British artist won the Turner Prize in 1991, was the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, and was featured in the ‘cultural icons’ section of the newly designed British passport in 2015.
He created the famous ‘rollercoaster’ permanent sculpture in London’s Olympic Park for the 2012 Olympics, designed the statuette for the 2018 Brit Awards, and the country’s biggest-ever outdoor exhibition of his work is now taking place across the grounds and in historic interiors of Houghton Hall.
Originally planned to open in March, the groundbreaking exhibition had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now revised government guidelines and a number of measures including pre-booked tickets have enabled visitors to experience the incredible works of art safely at Houghton Hall.
The exhibition features 24 sculptures as well as a selection of drawings and smaller works representative of Kapoor’s pioneering body of work that’s been created over the past 40 years. Presented together the works challenge the classical architecture of the house and the idyllic beauty of the grounds, whilst being in continuous dialogue and engagement with Houghton’s history.
Kapoor is well known for creating ambitious public sculptures that are adventurous in terms of both form and engineering - and employ very different scales and materials.
The exhibition has been curated by Mario Codognato, who’s been the chief curator of the museum of contemporary art (MADRE) in Naples since its foundation in 2005 and has been the director of the Anish Kapoor Foundation since 2016. It features some of Kapoor’s major works in mirror and stone, including the famous Sky Mirror (2018) – a 5-metre diameter mirror of stainless steel that reflects and transforms the space around it, turning the world upside down. It’s a work that’s perfect to sit under Norfolk’s enormous open skies.
In addition to a series of carved marble sculptures created in 2001-03 displayed across the grounds, a number of important works are also being shown inside Houghton Hall, including a series of dramatic sandstone sculptures in the gallery spaces.
“Anish Kapoor is a magician, and his elegant and reflective pieces throw back the world in many mysterious ways,” says Lord Cholmondeley, owner of Houghton. “We’re proud to have the opportunity to present an important group of Anish Kapoor’s work at Houghton, and are delighted to be able to welcome visitors once again.”
Houghton Hall was originally built by Sir Robert Walpole, Great Britain’s first Prime Minister in around 1722. Designed by prominent Georgian architects Colen Campbell and James Gibbs, it’s one of the country’s finest examples of Palladian architecture. Houghton and its estate passed to the Cholmondeley family at the end of the 18th Century and remains a family home. The house and award-winning gardens have been open to the public since 1976.
The exhibition is presented by the Houghton Arts Foundation (HAF) which is continuing to build a collection of outstanding contemporary art in the grounds of Houghton Hall, including a number of site-specific commissions. With links to colleges and public institutions across the region, the aim of the HAF is for Houghton to become a focus for those who wish to see the great art of our time in a historic setting. The current exhibition follows a tradition of landmark shows that have showcased the work of such important as James Turrell (2015), Richard Long (2017), Damien Hirst (2018) and Henry Moore (2019).
It’s long been celebrated as a work of sublime architecture and a historically important building, but Houghton Hall is also now gaining an international reputation for supporting and promoting some of the most significant artists in the world.
The Anish Kapoor exhibition at Houghton Hall runs until 1st November. For the latest details regarding opening times and the availability of pre-booked tickets, please see www.houghtonhall.com
© Anish Kapoor. All rights reserved DACS, 2020. Photos by Pete Huggins.