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Anish Kapoor’s fourth show at Galleria Massimo Minini—previous ones having been held in 1996, 1998, and 2004—marks the inauguration of our new exhibition space. To highlight the importance of this occasion, rather than drafting the usual press release in-house, we decided to ask a well-known author to write an original piece.

“I’ve never encountered an idea on its own, an idea that was pure. And do pure ideas really exist, anyway? What is an idea, if not something very muddled? How could I represent an idea, if not as murky water, with a fish swimming through it, a candy wrapper floating on the surface, and raindrops falling in? An idea is not a smooth, perfect sphere, it is not a smooth, perfect cube. It’s more likely to be a cube with a rough, uneven surface, many openings in it, and some faces askew: so my cube ends up resembling a house. My ideas resemble a city. My idea resembles reality. This city I’m walking through is reality, so reality—in reality—is an idea, it is the perfect idea. But that’s no good. I’m headed down the wrong track. I’m deluding myself. I’m making things too easy. I’m pretending there’s no need to come up with ideas, because we encounter them all the time outside ourselves; all you have to do is take a stroll through the city. So I’ll go outside of myself, since there’s a tendency in here to come up with ideas that are too easy. I’ll try to look at myself from the outside. Our protagonist, Tiziano Scarpa, was walking through the city thinking about pure ideas. He was trying to think about pure ideas. But why should ideas be pure, anyway? What did he mean by “pure”? Let’s suppose he meant ideas that are isolated, separate from other ones. Take water: we can separate it from the suspended particles of dirt, separate it from the fish swimming there, the candy wrapper floating on the surface and the raindrops falling in. But why shouldn’t ideas be complex, and blended, and composite? It would be interesting to run into a true idea. Tiziano Scarpa wandered through his city, which at this point we might suspect was nothing but an idea of his, a composite, complex, and even rather muddled thought, whose details were ill-defined. A potential urban design, where he encountered rough cubes full of openings: buildings, in other words; houses. That’s it: in other words. Let’s try words: ideas are words, words are ideas. But even words are layered, vague, full of echoes. Murky, inhabited by fish and candy wrappers, with raindrops falling in. For example, the word “example” means something that is picked out of a heap to demonstrate the characteristics of that heap, but it also means other things, a model of behavior to be imitated. Tiziano Scarpa built a monumental word in the middle of his conceptual city. He levelled out a square and built the word “idea”. He looked at it. He thought about it. He realized that to represent an idea, he naturally thought of a monumental scale. The idea made him want to think large, it was voluminous. The idea was a monument; and a monument was an idea. Tiziano Scarpa contemplated the word “idea” that he had just built in the center of the square, a word of monumental scale. He went up to it. He touched it. It was transparent, it had no substance, the gesture meant to touch it went right in. It was an overly conceptual concept. Tiziano Scarpa wanted something less evanescent. He walked on through his city. In another square, he encountered a disk stuck into the ground. It was an idea built by someone else. Tiziano Scarpa would never have been capable of coming up with it himself. He considered it carefully. This idea reminded
him of a sun going down, disappearing below the horizon, already half-invisible. A semicircle. This idea was given its shape by a thin sheet of metal that sculpted it, turning, fanning through it from left to right, from right to left, across its entire 180-degree breadth. Well, said Tiziano, this is a fair approximation of my idea of an idea. It is a form that alludes to a pure form, but without managing to be completely pure, or completely isolated. It isn’t pure, because the big sheet of metal, in sculpting it, has scraped away the excess conceptual matter, which is lying on the ground in lumps. The surface is not perfectly smooth. And it is not isolated, either, because it is an idea that makes you think of other things, like a sun going down. So it is an idea that cannot help but contain another one: it shifts between an abstract idea, which makes you think of nothing else, and a metaphorical, imitative, mimetic idea, which evokes the idea of another thing, a sun going down. It’s very large, thought Tiziano Scarpa, it makes me feel small, but then again, by imitating something as huge as the sun, it makes itself feel very small at the same time. As a healthy carrier of mortality, I feel at ease with an idea like this. I don’t feel too imperfect, when confronted by this idea, nor do I feel too small. I can deal with it. We’re friends. It’s an idea that takes my mortality into account. But I don’t know if this makes it a true idea. What does mortality have to do with ideas? Shouldn’t they be indifferent to my mortality, if they’re ideas? Or maybe it’s like this: I can only encounter mortal things, since I’m the one encountering them, since it is my mortality encountering them. At this point, however, something rebelled within Tiziano Scarpa, it rebelled against Tiziano Scarpa himself and against what he was thinking; this rebellion expressed the most mortal idea that came to mind. Suddenly, turning the corner, he stopped short in astonishment. He had encountered something even more mortal, more human, than what he had been able to think up on his own. It was projecting from the wall of a building. It was a monumental vagina; smooth, sleek, metallic, almost abstract. So now, an unquestionably mortal idea was presenting itself to him in a demortalized, eternalized form: idealized. The healthy carrier of mortality (which at this point could only mean an infected carrier of ideas) who went by the name of Tiziano Scarpa stood in front of the idea of a vagina, a bivalve shape with a stylized, summary interior. Tiziano Scarpa did something unpremeditated: he stood in front of the shape and uttered a word. He said, “Idea”. He said the word to its face, so to speak, depositing his voice inside that monumental idea of a vagina. Surprisingly, his voice was distorted by the concave shape; it was unrecognizable, it sounded stylized, fleshless. Once caught by that great vaginal ear, that sexed auricle, the word wriggled free of the voice that had uttered it, the person who had thought it. And so the word “idea”, and the idea itself, was monumentalized, definitively separated from the person who thought it up, and began to live a life of its own. As for Tiziano Scarpa, he died on the spot.”

Tiziano Scarpa

With this text, we would also like to inaugurate a different kind of collaborative interaction between the visual arts and writing. We will be working to develop this initiative in upcoming shows.

Starting on 29 May, with the opening of MAXXI, the new space for contemporary art in Rome, Anish Kapoor’s large-scale piece Widow, which was featured in his last show at our gallery in 2004, will be permanently displayed at the very center of the new museum.

Currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao until October is a major exhibition of Kapoor’s work, previously presented at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.