Why Anish Kapoor says artists need a collective voice to overcome the environment of fear
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The Indian-origin British sculptor, who knows a thing or two about offending people, says never waste a good crisis.
Sir Anish Kapoor knows a thing or two about offending people. He didn't set out to do so with his sculpture “Dirty Corner” for the Palace of Versailles in 2015 which was unofficially dubbed “The Queen's Vagina”, but he fought tooth-and-nail to defend his freedom of artistic expression. A former Rolex Arts Initiative Mentor, the 63-year-old spoke at the Rolex Arts Weekend in Berlin last week on the role of an artist as an interpreter of our troubled times. Here he speaks to Kaveree Bamzai on the sidelines of the Mentor and Protégé programme on finding the moral courage to speak up in the age of rage and the era of Padmaavat. As he says, "Individual voices are fine but there has to be a moment where artists join together to transgress the project that builds fear." He asks the valid question that all citizens should: "Where is the rule of law? What happened to our judicial system? Why and how are our lawyers who promote free speech so silent? What’s wrong with them?" And perhaps answers it himself when he talks of what his open outrage against the government's attempt to stifle dissent cost him - cancellation of two commissions, one celebrating Mahatma Gandhi's Salt March at Dandi and another building a new stepwell at a new university being opened in Ahmadabad. "But once again the project was designed, ready to go, everything was there and set and cancelled for precisely the same reason." He adds: "I have been very critical of [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi publicly in a little piece that I wrote for The Guardian three years ago. I said that his regime was akin to the Hindu Taliban. I am afraid I have to stick to that and I am afraid it is more true now than it was then."