MONUMENTA 2011 – Anish Kapoor: KA-POW!

Monumenta 2011 - Anish Kapoor: KA-POW!

It’s huge. It’s gigantic. It’s enormous! NO, it’s MONUMENTA.

In brief:

What is it?

It’s a gigantic, temporary, contemporary art installation called “Leviathan” by renowned artist/sculptor Anish Kapoor.

Where is it?

It’s at the Grand Palais in Paris, France. Enter at the Main Entrance, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008.

When is it?

It’s from May 11 to June 23, 2011, everyday except Tuesdays.
Mon & Wed — 10 am to 7 pm.

Thurs-Sun — 10 am to midnight.

Please note that the last entry to the exhibit is 45 min before the closing time.

This upcoming Saturday, May 14, for the Night at the Museums (Nuit des musées), the exhibit will be open from 10 am to 1 am (free entry begins at 7 pm). For more information on the Nuit des musées in Paris, see here: Nuit des Musées. Select “Paris” to view all 231 events in the city.

How much does it cost?

It’s 5€ for the full-rate, half-price for those who qualify (unemployed, those aged 13-18, etc.). Free for Under-13s, journalists with press passes, and others who qualify (see Practical Information on the Monumenta website ). There is a 10€ pass for unlimited entry for the entire duration of the exhibition. Paid admission allows the ticket holder into the evening events on the same day.

Why should I go?

You should go because the sheer scope and scale of the installation will blow your mind. KA-POW!

To learn more about my own experience and thoughts on the MONUMENTA 2011 installation by Anish Kapoor, for which I attended the Press Opening on May 10, 2011, please keep reading.


from my Flickr photo set 

Here I am, your Alien Parisienne, giving you the scoop on Paris from the alien angle, the geek perspective, the non-fanatic, ordinary-woman-whose-origins-are-middle-America, anti-“scene” point-of-view.

I’m a regular chick living in Paris, but sometimes I get a chance to do interesting stuff.

For example, I was invited to the press opening of an event called “Monumenta,” a contemporary art installation in the Grand Palais in Paris, France, which is exhibiting from May 11 to June 23, 2011.

The Grand Palais has hosted Monumenta exhibits by internationally-renown artists since 2007. This year’s invited artist/exhibit-creator/gigantic genius is Anish Kapoor, most well-known (to me, anyway) as the creator of the “Bean” (aka “Cloud Gate”) in Chicago’s Millennium Park.


Monumenta” is an annual exhibit within the soaring nave of the Grand Palais exhibition hall. A contemporary artist is invited by the French Ministry for Culture and Communication (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication) to specially create a new artwork specifically designed for the space, which totals 13,500 sq m / 145,313 sq ft and reaches 35 m / 115 ft in height.

Previous exhibitors include:

  • 2007 – Anselm Kiefer, a German painter and sculptor, who titled his Monumenta project «Chute d’étoiles», “Falling Stars.”
  • 2008 – Richard Serra, an American minimalist sculptor and video artist whose work often involves large-scale assemblies of sheet metal. His work was entitled “Promenade.”
  • 2009 – see note*
  • 2010 – Christian Boltanski, a French sculptor, photographer, painter and film maker. He created «Personnes», which translated can mean both “people” and “nobodies.”

(*Note: This link  shows that the 2010 artist, Christian Boltanski, was originally scheduled for 2009, but his exhibit was moved to the next year instead. It appears that no artist displayed in 2009.)

Who is this year’s creator/exhibitor?


Anish Kapoor – photo © Paris Karin – an alien parisienne

Anish Kapoor is primarily known for his dynamic and massive modern sculptures and installation art.

He was born in Bombay (Mumbai), India in 1954. He relocated to London in the 1970s, where he studied art and became a part of the “New British Sculpture” scene in the early 1980s.

His works have been exhibited in several well-known galleries and modern-art museums around the world, such as the Tate Gallery in London, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He also is known for his public-space works of art. For example, besides “Cloud Gate” in Chicago, he is the creator of the “Sky Mirror” in Nottingham, England, versions of which have exhibited in NYC’s Rockefeller Center and at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. To see a listing of all of Anish Kapoor’s works, visit his website at The Monumenta site also has a media collection of the artist’s works here.

More about Kapoor is available on the Monumenta website, but I really enjoyed reading up on Kapoor’s life on Wikipedia, too.

His personal history is given there as follows:

Kapoor was raised in an Indian home. His mother was a Jewish immigrant from Baghdad. “My mother was then only a few months old. She had an Indian-Jewish upbringing. Her father, my grandfather, was the cantor in the synagogue in Pune. At the time, the Jewish community in Mumbai was quite large, mostly consisting of Baghdadi Jews.” [From a 2009 interview in The Jewish Chronicle]

His father, from a Punjabi family, was a hydrographer in the Indian Navy.

Kapoor spent his early years in India, first in Mumbai, and then in Dehra Dun at the Doon School. During 1971-1973, he went to Israel with one of his two brothers. He first stayed in a kibbutz, and then studied electrical engineering. He then left for Britain where he attended Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea School of Art and Design.

He achieved widespread recognition when he represented Britain at the 1990 Venice Biennale.

Anish Kapoor is a Royal Academician and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2003. He is also a Distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association. (Source: Wikipedia – Anish Kapoor)

Wow. Fascinating life-history so far, no? A little Jewish Iraqi/Indian kid makes good first studying to be an electrical engineer, and then achieves success in the art world. He lived on a kibbutz? He left his life first from India and then from Israel to “make it” in London? I’d love to know more about what precipitated the life-choice to seize the day with the decision to study art and become an artist. It sounds like it is a courageous and risk-filled story, and one with a successful result. Looking at this artist’s life and work, and understanding just how BIG a deal he is, well, it is fitting that he is an artist creating for Monumenta 2011.

Where is the exhibition?

Anish Kapoor’s installation “Leviathan” is in the nave of the Grand Palais in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

Grand Palais December 2008

It’s funny to think that when I was first in Paris, I took this photo of the Grand Palais before I even knew what it was. Six months into my living in the city (December 2008), my friend Michelle came to visit Paul and me. We were wandering down the Champs-Élysées and wound up at the Pont Alexandre III, passing the Grand Palais to get there. I knew so little about Paris back then.

I think Michelle and I figured out that the structure was called “The Grand Palais” from looking at the building itself:

Inset: Le Grand Palais

Either that, or it was from reading my Plan de Paris map book. In any case, I knew next-to-nothing about it.

Almost two-and-a-half years later, I know considerably more.

The Grand Palais was built for the Exposition Universelle held in Paris in 1900. Along with it’s “little brother building,” the Petit Palais, and the Pont Alexandre III, the Grand Palais was a part of the world fair “to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next” (source: Wikipedia).

Since its inauguration 111 years ago on May 1, the exhibit space has held not only art shows, but automobile, horse, household appliance, aviation, and fashion shows, most notably ones for Chanel during the fall and spring fashion seasons.

The Art Nouveau interior is soaring and inspiring:

Grand Palais Interior

For some other terrific photos of the Grand Palais, exterior and interior, recent and past, please take a look at the French site — Grand Palais.

What was the exhibition like?

My friend, photographer Karin Crona, has a press pass, and she also secured an invitation to the press opening so she could attend with me.

We arrived at the exhibition at 10 am, got checked in and received our press packets, and then we were ushered towards a revolving door. We arrived into a dark space. Once our eyes adjusted, I understood where we were: the belly of the whale.

Those of you who attended Sunday School as kids may remember the story of “Jonah and the Whale.” Really, though, “whale” is a modern-day translation of a word that has also been interpreted as “leviathan.” The leviathan is more than just a whale; it is the most terrifying sea monster envisioned by Biblical writers and, before them, the ancient Sumerians. In fact, conceptually, being ingested by a “leviathan” has the connotation of being swallowed up by Hell itself, lost forever in the inky torturous blackness of eternal separation from God. Leviathan embodies the Beast of the Apocalypse; it is a sea-serpent “capable of provoking cataclysmic natural disasters.” (Source: Monumenta Press Packet, page 14.)

Well, while it was really dramatic, I did not actually feel like I had been caught up in the maw of a gigantic sea beast. Rather, as my friend Karin pointed out, it felt a lot more like being in a uterus.

Mostly, it was just downright cool. Check it out:

Monumenta 2011 - Anish Kapoor

from my Flickr photo set 

We heard that Anish Kapoor was to meet and greet journalists at 11 am. We’d gotten in shortly after 10, and waited around, inside of the “uterus,” for about 45 minutes or more, kind-of thinking where we were was all there was to see. The interior was interesting enough in itself, but things were a little dark and progressively getting stuffy, although the inner portion of the exhibit is fairly well-ventilated.


from my Flickr photo set 

Finally, there was hustle and bustle as Mr. Kapoor was ushered in, kind of like the rock star he is in the modern art world, and he along with the curator of the show, Jean de Loisy, spoke a few words as I snapped crappy photos in low light with my little Kodak point-and-shoot. (I have to say, I looked like a pretty lame journalist when compared with some of the photographic equipment I saw there. I had Camera Envy something fierce.) You can see a video post of some of what Mr. Kapoor said on the Monmenta Facebook fan page.

Mr. Kapoor exited the inner portion of the works, and (the other) Karin and I said to one another, “Shall we go see the rest?”

By that time, we had heard (to our relief) that there, indeed, was more. We were birthed back out of the revolving door to be greeted around the corner with these views:







I was, frankly, stunned. After being in the dark whale-belly/uterus/inner workings of the massive sculpture, I could feel my mind expanding with the view before me. A single, complete GIGANTIC work of art caused me to soar inside with a sort of disbelief that anything so big could have existed with the confines of the Grand Palais. It was not unlike a kind of re-birthing experience — exiting out of the womb into a bright, large, expansive world. I was confronted with an enormous form, that, while a work of modern art more than a century younger than the nave that enveloped it, seemed to adapt and fit within the space, complimenting it completely in terms of color, shape, size, and flow. People walking about the structure looked tiny, as houses and buildings look from an airplane. Yet, I was still earthbound. It was a bit like watching the movie “Gulliver” with Jack Black, except no CGI magic was involved, and I was most present in reality.


It was pretty incredible that something which made me feel so small on the outside could make me feel so big on the inside.

from my Flickr photo set (photo taken with my camera by Karin Crona)

I encourage all my readers who are spending time in Paris in the coming weeks until June 23 to visit the exhibition. Beyond simply visiting the installation, various events are going to be held on Thursday evenings during the course of the exhibition as well. Photography of the installation is allowed and encouraged. A photo contest is being held at the Monumenta 2011 Tumblr site (link below).

For more information take a look at:

I hope you get to check it out. If you are not in Paris, and cannot visit the exhibition for yourself, I hope that my post has communicated the essence of the work, and helped you to participate from afar.

I am your,
Paris Karin
(an alien parisienne)

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18 thoughts on “MONUMENTA 2011 – Anish Kapoor: KA-POW!

  1. that looks amazing…my daughter is there today and tommorrow..she’d love it….they may just stumble upon it…

    have a great weekend Karin…

    • Debbieeeeeeeee! 😀

      There you are! I have been thinking about you. 🙂 It’s been forever since I have been able to hop over to blogs to read people’s posts, including MJs where I know you hang out a lot (in addition to your own blog!). I have wondered how you are doing. I hope well.

      It really is an incredible exhibition. I loved it. I kind of didn’t want to leave! Paul and his kids and I may return tomorrow night for the Nuit des musées. I’d like to see it with a lot of non-journalists, too.

      Hope you are well. When are you coming here again? I hope we can connect. 🙂 Take care!

      • I’m coming in July ..only for 3 days sadly on our way to Florence…we arrive on the 2nd…

        I’m doing great and sounds like you are too…keeping busy by the looks of it…I read you met up with MJ at your favourite park…can’t believe how big madame Cokes is getting…

        for sure if you are around then and I can swing it we have to meet up for a cool drink..ha ha…

        maybe in beautiful Belleville…

        take it easy kiddo.

      • It would be wonderful to see you, Deb, so let’s do try to make it work out if possible, all right? And yes, up here in the NE of Paris would be a kick! (Sorry for the slowness in response! I made it here, though. 🙂 I hope you will be back to see this!)

  2. WOW. This looks incredible. I’m almost tempted to get that 10 euro ticket that would allow me unlimited access. I mean, if it looks that amazing in photos, it must be a thousand times cooler to actually be there. Thanks, Karin. Well done.

    (Also, I had an experience like that recently where I was with other invited journalists and bloggers. They all had super fancy cameras and I had my little point and shoot. Yep, I felt silly. But heck – these photos are still amazing!)

    • Hi there!

      Yes, Sion, I was thinking the same thing — that 10 euros gets a person unlimited access not only to the sculpture/installation, but also to the many events as well. It’s the price of a movie ticket, for crying out loud! Definitely worth it, I think. You said it here: “if it looks that amazing in photos, it must be a thousand times cooler to actually be there.” Exactly.

      With the whole camera thing: while I might not be able to get the resolution nor wide-angles, I try to look for the interesting shots. Even a cell phone camera can get those! Power to the people with the puny cameras! 😀

      Go, Sion. You’ll love it. 🙂

  3. Karin, you’ve done it again! I feel as though I was with you at the expo, and want to see and know more!

    • Hi Monique! I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment! Thank you very much — if I can make a person feel like they have traveled along with me, then I am a happy writer. 🙂 Have you gone to see Monumenta yet? We went once more for the Nuit des musées and it was cool to see at night, too!

      Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  4. Wow, how impressive! I’m going to go as soon as possible.

  5. Thanks again to you and Paul for going with us last night! I’ll have to go back during the day so I can get some better photos. Great write up!

    See you soon!

    • Hi Susan! It was very cool to go with you and M on the Nuit des Musées! I saw M’s pic (one of them) on FB, and it turned out really, really well! I hope to maybe do a really short follow up about a couple of thoughts I had about seeing it at night, but don’t know if I will get to it before a couple of other posts I want and need to do… Anyway — I am really glad we had the chance, too. 🙂

      Be well & hope to see you again soon!

  6. Wahhhh! Quelles photos! Sublimes. Merci
    Ca fait une éternité que je ne suis pas allée à Paris et au Grand Palais. Il faut que je me bouge pour cette installation!

    • Hi Ida!

      I just retrieved your comment out of the “Spam” folder! I’m sorry I did not see it sooner. But here it is! Thank you very much! I’m also sorry I am not more courageous to write in French. 🙂

      Take care!

  7. so nice to meet you tonight, too! and love this post — i want to go now!

  8. I haven’t commented on your blog recently, too busy… but I check it now and then! You haven’t been “forgotten”! 🙂

    I also posted on this, and thought I made it rather complete, but as usual, you always manage to make something more!

    • Hi Peter! 🙂 It’s okay that you have not checked in on my blog recently for as you can tell, I have not been posting that often!! 😀 Thank you so much for checking in. I thought your post was terrific, too — it is so fun to see and read the different ideas about the same thing. For example, An American Mom in Paris, MJ, posted about it here (“Big Art“), too & she brought up things that I wished I had thought to write as well. Plus hers is really funny! 🙂

      Anne A. is going to be in town and talked about meeting up with you, too — perhaps we’ll see each other again soon. It has been way too long. But as you wrote, things have been busy! For me, too! But also like you wrote, I’ve not forgotten either, and it would be lovely to have a meet-up again soon. We’ll have to make it happen very soon.

      Be well, and thank you again for stopping by, Peter! Take care —

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