Anish Kapoor to debut first ever vantablack sculptures in 2021

During the Venice Biennale, visitors will be able to see his work, made with the “blackest material in the universe”

Renowned artist Anish Kapoor announced he will present a new series of works using the “blackest material in the universe” at the Gallerie dell'Accademia during next year's Venice Biennale. The event will mark the first time the public has the chance of seeing the so-called Vantablack S-VIS material used in Kapoor's work of art, even though he already unveiled a limited-edition $95,000 Vantablack timepiece with Swiss watchmaker Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps in fall 2016.

The technologically-advanced substance was invented back in 2014 for aerospace purposes by British scientific research company Surrey NanoSystems and reportedly traps 99.96% of light falling on its surface. And when the announcement was made, Kapoor’s interest was immediately piqued. By September of that year, the artist had announced his plans to use the “nano-material” in his work. A year and a half later, he secured the exclusive rights to make Vantablack art, although a number of artists expressed frustrations and questioned the right of any artist to have control over a colour. 

This was not the only challenge Kapoor had to face. The artist initially predicted he’d be able to coat an entire room with the substance within a few months.

“Imagine walking into a room where you literally have no sense of the walls - where the walls are or that there are any walls at all,” he told Artforum in 2015. “It’s not an empty dark room, but a space full of darkness.”

But working with the material has proved extremely complex. In particular because of the complicated technique, used for the creation of the material. Scientists have to use a reactor to make Vantablack and adhere the delicate material to a given surface - especially challenging because carbon nanotubes previously could only be grown at ultra-hot temperatures. The process, originally developed to make a cloaking material for military hardware and for other aerospace purposes, remains top secret. But Kapoor explained the mysterious process and why the stuff looks so black. Because each carbon nanotube is 300 times as long as it is wide, Vantablack traps nearly 100 percent of the light - 99.96%, to be exact - that falls on its surface. The astonishing effect is that the material appears like a bottomless void, seeming to eat lasers.

“The particles stand up like velvet when they are put to a reactor,” Kapoor explained to the Art Newspaper during a recent sneak peek of the new Vantablack works. “When the particles stand up next to each other light gets trapped in between each particle.”

Another big new challenge will be the shipping and installation process, since the surface of Kapoor’s Vantablack works are so fragile they cannot be touched, which will make their presentation tricky. The carbon nanotubes bend easily - and when they bend they no longer absorb light, destroying the works’ illusory properties. But if all goes according to the plan, the works incorporating the material will be “almost entirely lacking in dimension" and can use negative space to produce a magical illusive effect. 

Kapoor’s past experiments with illusive space have proven almost too convincing. In 2018, a visitor to the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal, had to be hospitalised after he fell into Descent into Limbo (1992), an installation that creates the impression of a circular void in the gallery floor.

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