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Notes from the Venice Biennale: Anish Kapoor's 'Ascension' falls flat before big crowd

June 1, 2011 |  2:04 pm

Kapoornosmoke2 Anish Kapoor's "Ascension" simply did not rise to the occasion.

The popular British-based artist has done a version of the project before in secular spaces, but this week marked his first go at a sacred space. The idea was to rig the historic Basilica di San Giorgio to create a column of smoke, or shaft of light, that appears to rise from a central well of his own design and ascend all the way to the vaulted ceiling.

But by the time the piece opened last night for the crowds, it looked more like a wisp of steam escaping from a pot of pasta, as in the image at right. The work, one of several dozen "collateral" projects connected to the Biennale, was clearly on the blink.

You might think anyone on the busy Biennale circuit would quickly move on. Think again.

The technical problems, now said to be resolved, didn't stop a steady stream of visitors from claiming the pews near the figment of an artwork and staring into space, as though some revelation were in the making.

After leaving the basilica, Rani Singh of the Getty Research Institute called it a classic case of the contemporary-art emperor wearing no clothes. "What I found humorous was watching all the people pay such close attention to this thing--to nothing."


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Mapping the Madness

--Jori Finkel, from Venice, Italy

www.twitter.com/jorifinkel

Photograph by Jori Finkel / Los Angeles Times


 
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