British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor was chosen to represent Britain at the first Biennale of the 1990s. He had been exhibiting since 1980 but it was this show that brought him widespread recognition on the international stage.
Sixteen huge sandstone blocks dominated the Pavilion’s main room; they were so heavy that the floor had to be reinforced with supports. Kapoor had started working in stone in the late 1980s and each block in Void Field (1989) has a hole filled with another motif in his work, the powdered blue pigment used in Indian religious ceremonies. The same vibrant tones, which was also inspired also by Yves Klein’s statement bold blue colour, were used in his low-lying slate sculpture, A Wing at the Heart of Things (1990), in the back gallery of the Pavilion; this work is now part of Tate’s collection.
“Venice is an interchange of East and West, reflecting the way Kapoor borrows from both cultures” said Henry Meyric Hughes, British Council.
Kapoor’s exhibition also wove together references to spiritualism and eroticism, with the red slit in the Pavilion's wall, entitled The Healing of St. Thomas (1989), alluding to the saint that doubted Jesus’ resurrection. Whereas the composition of a mound of anthracite coal and a fibreglass opening of Black Fire (1990) was described by Kapoor as “evidently sexual”.
Kapoor won the Premio Duemila for the Work of a Young Artist under 35, meeting controversy as he was in fact already 36 years old.
Henry Meyric Hughes was the Commissioner of the British Pavilion in 1990, with support from British Council colleagues Brett Rogers and Malcolm Hardy.