Anish Kapoor Will Get a Major Debut in China, Becoming the Second Foreign Artist to Show in Beijing’s Forbidden City

The British artist will install his work at a historic temple outside of Beijing's Forbidden City.

Anish Kapoor with his monumental work Symphony for a Beloved Daughter at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2018. Photo by Tim P. Whitby Getty Images for the RA.

The British artist Anish Kapoor has conquered Chicago with his famous Cloud Gate, broke a box-office record at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, and stirred up controversy at Versailles. But perhaps his most surprising feat yet will come this fall when he becomes only the second Western artist to install his work on the doorstep of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

Kapoor could install monumental works at the Imperial Ancestral Temple for his what will be his first major solo show in China. At the same time there will be a survey of the Mumbai-born, London-based artist’s work at the museum of Beijing’s most prestigious art school, the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

While other Western artists may have had more shows in China, most notably Sean Scully, who has had two multi-venue touring exhibitions, only the German artist Markus Lüpertz has installed their works in the prestigious venue that attracts more that 10 million annual visitors. In 2007, Lüpertz’s paintings and sculptures went on show in the Imperial Museum, Beijing.   

The Imperial Ancestral Temple, east of the Forbidden City. Photo by Frederic J. Brown. AFP/Getty Images.

Details of the exhibitions have not been announced but artnet News understands that the shows will include works ranging from early pigment pieces to the large, shiny sculptors that have made Kapoor’s international reputation. The debut of a work made of Vantablack or the return his “vagina” sculpture, Dirty Corner, which was the target of an anti-Semitic graffiti attack at Versailles, is unlikely.

Kapoor’s exhibitions in Beijing “will create an unprecedented dialogue with the contemporary art space” of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, “as well as the grand historical space of the Imperial Ancestral Temple,” according to a statement. The project will led by the president of the academy, Fan Di’an, with Su Xinping and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, alongside Zhang Zikang, who is the chief curator of the project.

The artist’s relationship with China has not always run smoothly. In 2015, he was upset to learn that a sculpture similar to Cloud Gate had been unveiled in Karamay, in northwestern China. The following year he decided to let his work remain on view in the inaugural Yinchaun Biennale in China although he threatened to boycott the event after Ai Weiwei’s works were censored.

Kapoor has North and South America covered too. He has just opened a show in Santiago, Chile, and in October he is due to return to New York with his first show in Lisson Gallery’s two venues there. (The artist has traditionally shown at Goodman Gallery in New York.) Handily, he could stay in his apartment in the new Herzog and de Meuron-designed luxury condo tower in Tribeca, for which the artist has created a site-specific shiny bean-shaped sculpture to add to the building’s curb appeal. Closer to home in London, Kapoor’s new paintings and sculptors go on show at Lisson Gallery this week.

“Anish Kapoor,” May 15 through June 22, Lisson Gallery, Bell Street London.

“Anish Kapoor,” October 31 through December 21, Lisson Gallery, 504 West 24th Street and 138 10th Avenue, New York.


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