Into the Void: Anish Kapoor Reveals His First Works Using Vantablack, the World’s Darkest Color, in Venice

Apr 21, 2022

What do you get when you combine the Baroque interior of a Venetian palazzo with the bottomless void of the blackest material in the world?

Ask Anish Kapoor, the British-Indian artist who is unveiling the first sculptures he has made using Vantablack, casting an illustrious shadow across this year’s Venice Biennale.

The material in question, which Kapoor has called more of a technology than a paint, was initially developed by the U.K.-based Surrey NanoSystems for military-grade stealth weaponry. The coating, which refracts light and transforms it into heat, consists of millions of carbon nanotubes, which are “grown” in a chamber under powerful lamps.

Now, Vantablack’s first aesthetic applications are on display in an exhibition that unfurls across two venues—the Gallerie dell’Accademia, one of Venice’s most iconic venues for experiencing the art of Old Masters—and a palazzo acquired by Kapoor himself.

Installation view of Anish Kapoor’s exhibition at the Palazzo Manfrin, Venice. Photo: © David Levene.

Swallowing 99.8 percent of visible light, Vantablack is akin to a void of darkness or a black hole, and Kapoor has produced several circular-shaped objects clad in the coating. The works are finally coming to proverbial light after a long and public feud with artist Stuart Semple, who openly criticized Kapoor’s studio being given exclusive license to use it.

“There’s been this ridiculous controversy about me having control over the color,” Kapoor told Wallpaper. He added, “It’s perfectly straightforward: it’s not a color. It’s a technology. And it’s extremely complicated and sophisticated.”

Installation view of Anish Kapoor’s exhibition at the Palazzo Manfrin, Venice. Photo: © David Levene.

The debut of the artist’s Vantablack works also marks the first phase of the establishment of the Anish Kapoor Foundation in the Palazzo Manfrin Venier. Previously a popular gallery among 19th-century literati—including Lord Bryon and Édouard Manet—with many of its original paintings now housed in the the Accademia’s collection, the 18th-century mansion in Cannaregio had in recent decades fallen into disrepair. Upon completion of a full renovation, the palazzo will become the artist’s headquarters and consist of an exhibition venue, studio, and archive for his previous works. “I feel a deep commitment to Venice, its architecture and its support for the contemporary arts,” the artist said in a statement.

Installation view Gallerie dell’Accademia © Anish Kapoor. Photo: © Attilio Maranzano.

The dual-venue exhibition, on view through October 9 and curated by Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits, also features a selection of Kapoor’s other iconic works beyond Vantablack. Dibbits said in a statement: “All artists, however cutting edge and contemporary, are in debate with those who have gone before. The Gallerie dell’Accademia is the perfect site for a modern master to explore the themes that have always engaged sculptors and painters. Kapoor’s latest works, using the most advanced nanotechnology, promise to be a revelation.”