‘If Duchamp declared that all objects in the world are art,’ Kapoor has said, referring to the French Surrealist’s famous 1917 submission of a urinal for a New York exhibition, ‘then I am interested in the next stage of that argument…that all objects in the world are symbolic.’
Born in Bombay in 1954 to an Iraqi-Jewish mother and a Hindu father, Kapoor has always drawn on the spiritual and mythological heritage of his upbringing. After a spell in Israel, he moved to London in 1973 and studied at Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea School of Art.
His early works, such as As if to Celebrate, I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers (1981), were geometric shapes of raw colour evocative of the vivid kumkuma powder of Hindu ritual. In 1982, he represented Britain at the Paris Biennale and, from the late ‘80s, moving away from colour, he began producing works such as The Earth (1992) and the mausoleum-like Descent into Limbo (1992) — his first haunting explorations into distortions and the symbolic potential of space.
In 1991, having represented Britain at the 1990 Venice Biennale, he won the Turner Prize. Over the next two decades, Kapoor would establish himself as one of the most important sculptors of his generation.
In 2003, Kapoor earned his first public commission in the United States, the now-iconic Cloud Gate (2004–06) (nicknamed ‘The Bean’) in Chicago. Other monumental public works followed, including Leviathan (2011) in Paris’s Grand Palais, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower for London’s 2012 Olympic Games.
In 2009, Kapoor was the first living artist in Royal Academy history to be given the entirety of the gallery for a solo show. He was awarded a Knighthood in 2013 for services to visual arts.