Monday, May 16, 2011


Every year Paris selects an artist to create a piece of art in its Monumenta series.  It's called Monumenta because the art is meant to take advantage of the enormous volumes of the nave of the Grand Palais to showcase an installation of equal spacial importance.

Previous artists have been Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra and Christian Boltanski.  I've seen them all and written about them here.  While the Kiefer has been my favorite, they've all been extraordinary in their own, very different, ways.

This year's installation is by Anish Kapoor and is called Leviathan.  You'll recall that Leviathan was a biblical sea monster and a Melvillian whale.  Kapoor's version is a three-lobed sculpture made of a fabric of PVC fibers and filled with air pumped from the outside.  An enormous balloon in effect, it reminds one of anatomical structures, zeppelins, stranded sea creatures.  It's stunning, enormous and overwhelming in its size and complexity of construction.

And then you enter it.

In daylight the sun throws the shadows of the roof struts of the Grand Palais' glass roof onto the piece and you're in the center of a translucent whale.  Noah's got nothing on this experience.

The three lobes are connected and from the inside you can understand how.  It's like being at the convergence of two wormholes.  The softly radiused edges of the openings to the side lobes tempt you to slip over them and slide down.  Luckily they're too high and the way up to them too steep.  The fabric is actually relatively fragile and we were asked nicely not to knock on it to hear the resonance.

When the cloud cover obscured the direct sunlight you can see the seams of the Leviathan itself, looking remarkably like a Japanese lantern.  We've already been twice to visit it.  And this boy is doing what you want to do in there.


Tomate Farcie said...

oh wow!!! I don't know what to say to that!!! Good photos!

Shelli said...

Thanks Tomate. I recently looked at your photos of SF; very nice!

julie said...

Oh this is too cool. Your photos show it very well. Psssst: It was Jonah who was swallowed by the whale.

Shelli said...

My biblical bad!