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On Kensington Gardens & Anish Kapoor, footballer

When Patty and I were in London 10 days ago, we were staying in a hotel in Lancaster Gate, overlooking the northern side of Kensington Gardens. We took a stroll through the gardens in the hour before it got dark, enjoying the autumn leaves strewn over the pathways, and the feel of the warm moist English November air on our faces. As we walked down to the Serpentine, the river that snakes through the gardens (really a big park adjacent to Hyde Park), we saw this on the opposite bank:


It was a huge stainless steel disc, easily at least twelve feet high, looking boldly out of place in such a leafy setting. I wasn't sure what it was, but I guessed that it must be a sculpture of some sort, and I had the feeling that I'd seen it before. Sure enough, when I got back to the USA, I looked it up and found out that it was Anish Kapoor's 'Sky Mirror', which I had seen several times on Rockefeller Plaza in New York City:


I think it worked better in New York. On the evening that I saw it in London, the sky was so flat and grey that the mirror didn't really reflect anything. As a piece of public art, I think it's so minimal as to be almost a provocation. At least the 'bean' in Chicago impresses with its size, and has an attractively playful element to it.

Here's an anecdote about Kapoor: back in the early 1990s, a friend of mine who lived in West London used to play in the same Saturday pub football (soccer) league as Anish Kapoor. My friend told me that there was this short, stocky guy who could run pretty fast, and who used to go in for tackles that were considered just a little too enthusiastic for a Saturday pick-up game. In fact, his tackling was so aggressive that on one occasion it nearly led to a fight. If you ever hear Kapoor talking about the spiritual and meditative nature of his work, you'll see the irony.

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