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one associates with the human body as it explodes off the blocks down the 100m straight.” Well if the 100m sprint doesn’t go our way and even if Britain ends up winning gold only in the Olympic darts (again, let’s be realistic), surely we have entrusted the right artist to do us proud in the challenge to make The Worst Artwork In The World, Ever. Let’s remember Kapoor’s huge London show of 2009, which was the only time that all the Royal Academy’s galleries have been devoted to a living artist. No opportunities for conceptual compromise were missed here. For example, Kapoor’s slow train of red wax, paint and Vaseline, entitled Svayambh (meaning self-generated), did its work (making itself) the first time it was pushed through the archways of the RA. It could have done this slowly over the entire duration of the exhibition but instead it was made to repeat, no-longer auto-generating, several times a day. Similarly, the drama and surprise of Kapoor’s over-sized paintball gun, entitled Shooting In The Corner, is decimated by the Disneyland queuing system. Of all the ways that the work could have been staged (for example, firing overhead through the galleries, less frequently and at less predictable intervals), the unimaginative negotiation of the practical (health and safety) limitations of the space renders the work inert when the whole name of the game with Kapoor is the visceral experience and its uncompromising execution.


Indeed it’s this lazy glossing-over of the disjuncture between the work’s


pretence to transcendence and its theme park actuality that’s always the problem with Kapoor’s grandstanding practice. Any potential spiritual dimension is evaporated by the work’s fairground theatricality, such that the only possible response is to join in with the crowds looking at themselves in Kapoor’s mirrored sculptures by saying to yourself, “wow, my head looks really big in this.” Along with Anthony Gormley, Anish Kapoor has so valiantly positioned himself on the frontline of urban rebranding, vanquishing poverty from city centres around the world with his amorphous multi-million dollar mirrored blobs of public sculpture. But it is paradoxically Kapoor’s work that is actually so bad at dealing with the public, uncritically returning the lowest common denominators of human fascination at shiny things. What’s far more interesting, though, than the vacuity of Anish Kapoor’s


funhouse mirrors is what is unintentionally reflected about us collectively in the popularity of this audience-friendly faux-spiritualism. The scale on which Kapoor is allowed to operate could only have come about at a particular time in our history and is the product of a bloated art market that developed during a particular economic bubble. Art may well be the most sophisticated system of value creation in the history of the world and the turbo-charged art system that emerged during the last financial boom absorbed both the position of the avant- garde and the position of the outsider (if indeed either of these positions ever really existed). Now the role of artists is to provide together at least $15 billion a year worth of window-dressing for art’s three economic functions:


Above: The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds 2010, Tate Photography © Ai Weiwei


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