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Anish Kapoor’s endless black whirlpool opens in Brooklyn Bridge Park

'You feel the earth actually trembling.'

May 3, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photo: James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY
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Kids peered on in awe, bewildered, wondering what they were looking at.

One child asked, “Is it a swimming pool?”

Another hid behind his mother.

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A parent urged her daughter not to get too close.

What could be mistaken for a contraption straight out of a sci-fi film is actually the latest art installation from Mumbai-born, Britain-based sculptor Anish Kapoor.

Entering from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s (BBP) Pier 1, visitors maneuvered their way through a pebble-lined pathway to discover a 26-foot-wide never-ending vortex of black water.

Situated next to the Brooklyn Bridge and underneath the famous Watchtower sign, the everlasting whirlpool, dubbed “Descension,” opened to the public on Wednesday morning and is on display through Sept. 10, 2017.  

The exhibit, which is surrounded by a railing, demonstrates how an ordinary substance like water can interact and behave in extraordinary ways.

And with the East River only a few hundred feet away from the project, the whirlpool complements, contrasts and interacts with the city’s vibrant waterway while also whimsically playing with the viewers’ eyes and minds.

“‘Descension’ thrives here because it’s an extraordinary work, it’s very powerful, it’s a very visceral experience,” Director and Chief Curator of Public Art Fund Nicholas Baume told the Brooklyn Eagle. “It’s not just a visual encounter. It’s physical. It’s sound. You feel the earth actually trembling.

“All of that happens in this extraordinary setting at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, right on the East River with the Lower Manhattan skyline across the river in this extraordinary park that is filled with New Yorkers of all kinds … It really is a melting pot of New York City, which is what Brooklyn is all about. It’s an extraordinary symbol.”

The whirlpool creates an opaque, ostensibly endless hole of darkness. The exhibit creates negative space that seemingly spirals into the ground.

Public Art Fund is curating the exhibit as part of its 40th anniversary season.

Public Art Fund, according to its website, “brings dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City and beyond by mounting ambitious, free exhibitions of international scope and impact that offer the public powerful experiences with art and the urban environment.”

Baume credited BBP’s sprawling size, openness and breathtaking views as complements to “Descension.”

“[BBP] has scale, this is a big park,” Baume told the Eagle. “A lot of sites that we work at in Manhattan are wonderful, but they’re small footprints. Here, this work can breathe, it’s surrounded by lawn, trees and this landscape.

“It just feels open in a way that certainly sites in Manhattan very rarely do.”

“Descension” was displayed in a solo exhibition at Versailles in 2015. This is the first time that the large-scale outdoor piece is on display in North America.

Kapoor is no stranger to major open-air sculptures in New York City, having had his “Sky Mirror,” a 35-foot-wide concave mirror, installed at Rockefeller Center in 2006. Public Art Fund presented that exhibit, as well.

Public Art Fund recently curated another outdoor sculpture at BBP’s Pier 6 by London-based artist Martin Creed. It featured a 25-foot-tall, 360-degree rotating sculpture that read “Understanding.” It was on display from May through Oct. 23, 2016.

Following “Understanding,” “Descension” is the third temporary art installation that has made its debut in BBP.

Deborah Kass’ yellow “OY/YO” sculpture opened in November 2015 and was on view through August 2016. The sculpture read “OY” when looked at from Brooklyn, or “YO” if seen from Manhattan.

Anish Kapoor gave a Public Art Fund Talk in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School on Wednesday where he discussed “Descension” as it relates to his art practice and public space.


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