Indian mind for 'largest' art

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 10.07.08

London, July 10: India and Sri Lanka are preparing to do battle at cricket back home. But over in England, the two sides, represented by Anish Kapoor, the distinguished Indian sculptor, and Cecil Balmond, an accomplished Sri Lankan engineer, are collaborating in creating what is being described as “the largest art initiative the world has ever seen”.

Plans for Temenos, the first of five giant sculptures intended to make a huge impact on the landscape in Tees Valley in the north of England, were unveiled today.

While Kapoor, born in Mumbai in 1954, studied at the Hornsey College of Art and the Chelsea School of Art Design in London, Balmond, born in Sri Lanka in 1943, read engineering at Imperial College before joining Arup, the firm of structural engineers where he is now deputy chairman.

Commissioned by Tees Valley Regeneration, it will be Kapoor’s task to imagine ever more weird and wonderful pieces of mammoth sculpture and Balmond’s job to build the structures.

“I relish the chance to work in an area like the Tees Valley where there is a real and growing appreciation of art and its place within resurgent communities,” Kapoor said in a statement.

He added: “I have visited the area and welcome the prospect of playing a part in this renaissance from the start.”

The comment from Balmond was: “It is always fascinating to work with Anish. His design outlook creates new spatial geometries with interesting structural possibilities.”

The two men had earlier worked together in 2002 when Kapoor’s installation, Marysas, occupied the entire length of Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London.

Although Kapoor has not looked back since he won the Turner Prize in 1991, his great ambition, it is said, is to be placed on a par with his contemporary, Anthony Gormley, who is known for his dramatic sculpture, Angel of the North, in Gateshead.

Now, Kapoor has the chance of making a similar statement with the five “giants” in Tees Valley.

For a start, Temenos — in Greek it means a piece of land reserved for the gods — “will cost £2.7 million and will be a staggering 110 metres in length and almost 50 metres high”, it was announced today.

The circular ring will be 32m in diameter and the elliptical ring 28m by 16m.

Temenos will use 8,200m of stainless steel cable, weigh 66 tonnes and be located within a year at the north-eastern corner of Middlehaven Dock in Middlesbrough, one of Tees Valley Regeneration’s five flagship redevelopment schemes.

The others will be placed in Stockton, Darlington, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland.

In all, the five sculptures will cost a total of “£15 million at today’s prices”, with the money coming from a number of organisations, including the government initiative The Northern Way, regional development agency One NorthEast, Arts Council England, Northern Rock Foundation, Middlesbrough Football Club and BioRegional Quintain.

Tees Valley Regeneration says it has worked for several years to secure the artistic initiative.

Its chief executive, Joe Docherty, explained why the two men, giants in their respective fields, had been chosen.

Anish Kapoor

“Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s public artworks are known around the world for their size, complexity and the ambition of their vision, which is why we believe they are the right team for this project,” Docherty said.

The artist and the engineer were known for the monumental scale of their work and are two of the most sought-after names in the art world.

Their works could be seen in prominent locations around the globe, including New York, Chicago and Beijing, it was pointed out.

Docherty said: “The work we are unveiling today is just the first in a series of five monumental pieces, each related in terms of scale and engineering. Temenos will put Tees Valley and the wider region firmly on the map. It has always been our pledge to bring only the best to Tees Valley, and to have people of this calibre working on not just one but five installations is a resounding result for the area.”