• Zoltan Alexander


A unique outdoor installation by one of Britain’s most eminent sculptors, Royal Academician Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

Review by Zoltan Alexander


Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall

Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall 2020 / © video by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA

Going to Houghton Hall is always an emotional and thrilling experience. It is a discovery even when one knows the artist well. Following the annual art programme Houghton Arts Foundation (HAF) continues its tradition with a large-scale exhibition of outdoor sculptures by one of the most celebrated and influential British artists of our time, Anish Kapoor.

The exhibition was originally scheduled to open in March 2020 but was postponed due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Despite current circumstances, Houghton Hall was able to open its doors on 12 July for the second part of the season until 1 November unlike many art galleries and museums, which remained closed.

Anish Kapoor / Photo © Courtesy of Matthew Childs / REUTERS

In 2019, Anish Kapoor was chosen to launch the new gallery space at Pitzhanger Manor of Sir John Soanes with his cryptic, large-scale works, and in 2020, he followed a number of site-specific commissions and the footsteps of artists exhibited at Houghton Hall in previous years: James Turrell (2015), Richard Long (2017), Damien Hirst (2018) and Henry Moore (2019).

The Houghton Art Foundation’s aim is to focus on visitors who wish to discover contemporary art in historic settings.

Henry Moore at Houghton Hall / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Anish Kapoor at Château de Versailles / Photo © Courtesy of the Château de Versailles

The works of Anish Kapoor challenge the classical architecture of Houghton, the impressive stately home of the Marquess and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, and the idyllic beauty of the grounds, whilst being in continuous dialogue and engagement with Houghton’s history. Kapoor has brought 21 of his large-scale pieces, some pre-existing works created over the past 40-years as well as a selection of working drawings from his ground-breaking practice. He unleashed granite, marble and stainless steel from gravity and made them appear to float above the surface.

"Sky Mirror" by Anish Kapoor / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


The outdoor exhibition is centred on a group of polished stone and marble sculptures, many of which have not been seen previously. Probably the most striking piece of all is the iconic 5-metre diameter stainless steel Sky Mirror” in the axe of the immaculately kept garden, which transforms the space and with its delightful optical effects juxtapositions clouds of the sky, bringing heaven down to earth. Angels were guided by Kapoor.

Was I losing my marbles? Definitely. The scene was a shocking, sharp contrast between contemporary art and classical architecture.

"Sky Mirror" and "Untitled" by Anish Kapoor / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


A video interview without an interview. Zoltan Alexander walks through the garden at Houghton Hall with Lord Cholmondeley and films “Sky Mirror” of Anish Kapoor.

"Sky Mirror" by Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall 2020 / Duration 3min30”

Directed by Zoltan Alexander

Music by Kelsey Lu "Dreams"

Narration by Paulo Goude

Editing by Mr Skok of George Smoog

Production © ZOLTAN+MEDIA London

Anish Kapoor is a magician” Lord Cholmondeley explains. “His elegant reflective pieces throwback the world in mysterious ways. We are proud to have the opportunity to present an important group of Anish Kapoor’s work at Houghton, and are delighted to be able to welcome visitors once again.”

Curator Mario Codognato added: “Norfolk is famous for its big skies, and the day I was there, the clouds were reflected in the concave mirror so beautifully that you felt you were being pulled into a portal to another world. I’ve seen so many of his sky mirrors, but the setting in these glorious English gardens is spectacular.”

Houghton Hall / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Walking through the garden’s narrow paths and corridors one cannot avoid hearing the voices of the past. It is a rare moment to treasure and to forget our harsh reality. I stopped and listened.

In 1720s Houghton was designed by the prominent Georgian architects Colen Campbell and James Gibbs for Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole and was built with an eye to reflecting the wealth, taste, and power of its owner. Houghton today remains one of Norfolk’s most beautiful stately homes and one of England’s finest Palladian houses.

Houghton Hall - deers / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Houghton Hall - garden path / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

During the 18th-century, Walpole amassed one of the greatest collections of European art in Britain, and Houghton became a museum to the collection. Walpole spared no expense in the decoration of the house, although it would rarely have been used, as he only visited Norfolk twice a year.

The centuries that followed would see the fate of Houghton, and at the end of the 18th-century, the house was inherited by the 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley. It was only when the future 5th Marquess of Cholmondeley and his wife, Sybil took on the house after the WW1, that it was restored to its former glory.

Houghton is currently the home of the Marquess of Cholmondeley who was brought up at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire, but spent his childhood holidays at Houghton when his grandparents were still alive. After their deaths, during the 90s he took on the responsibility of running the estates in Norfolk and Cheshire.

Marquess and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley at Houghton Hall

Upon arrival Lord Cholmondeley invited us for a walk around the garden to discover Kapoor’s installations followed by the extended exhibition in the Stone Hall.

"Untitled" by Anish Kapoor / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Laying horizontally on the lawn, a giant monolith piece in granite was positioned with its curved elements reflecting the landscape and distorting our presence. The sculpture “Untitled” is raw on one side, highly polished on the other with double convex curves and looks spectacular with the immaculately trimmed box hedges. With its fine optical effects, voids and volume, the sculpture is simply thrilling. It is pure perfectionism and Kapoor’s work turns the world upside down.

Last Sunday, during the opening when Anish Kapoor saw the sculptures in situ for the first time, he walked around the garden and caressed the curves and the polished surfaces of his marble sculptures.

"Untitled" by Anish Kapoor / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

The garden was designed by Charles Bridgeman in 18th-century who was a proponent of the garden as he idealised views of nature and every view was meticulously measured. That is why Kapoor’s installation looks stunning from any angle. At the time, every hedge, tree and plant was carefully planned to look as natural as possible. No English house was seen without a well-placed historical or mythical statue. Placing Kapoor’s work in this setting, Houghton continues its tradition.

Houghton Hall - garden path / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

As in an 18th-century garden, Kapoor’s sculptures reflect the human forms with the slight difference that Kapoor is more interested in the inner approach of the body rather than the exterior. The aesthetics for the garden design was developed on philosophy, literature, painting and sculpture and in that sense, Bridgman and Kapoor are an ideal match, as both are skilled at taming nature. It is also a smart match of artist and site.

"Grace" and "Imminence" by Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
"Sophia" by Anish Kapoor / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

The shapes of Kapoor’s sculptures echo the human body; curvaceous and fleshy with orifices and cavities, often an endoscopic vision of organ-like pieces, which perfectly interact with the natural veins of the marble. Curves tamed into straight lines by the sculptor’s hands and these geometric organs are carefully placed in a landscape. There is also some fetishist quality about them.

The whole of the tradition of sculpture concentrates on the positive form. The negative in sculpture has relied on a symbolic relationship with the positive. I have been working to try and leave behind the form and deal with the non-form.” Anish Kapoor