Imagine yourself entering a dark space, directed towards a quietly swishing revolving door. There are signs everywhere warning you’re about to enter a “pressurized area” so if you’re pregnant, have breathing problems, or some curious disease.
Anish Kapoor’s Leviathan at the Grand Palais in Paris is probably the closest you ever get to experience how Jonah felt when swallowed by a whale. Instead of standing in an exhibition hall looking at an object, you’re in the object itself, a mixture between a whale’s stomach and a massive womb, with no sense of the surrounding environment. Your only connection with the outside world are the web-like patterns of the Grand Palais’s roof over the rounded surfaces. It’s surreal, kind of bizarre, and very beautiful.
Passing back out into the entrance area, you head through another door into the body of the hall where you’re hit by brilliant sunlight and overwhelmed by a 376,700 ft² dark purple globular monster, the exterior of the space you’ve just been in, which appears about to roll over you and makes you feel truly tiny. Kapoor really gets the scale of the Grand Palais. He didn’t fill the entire space so you can get a clearer perspective standing away from it. The mint green iron against the dark purple is beautiful as are the shadows the sun creates through the glass and iron slats of the roof. These two very different, very challenging environments fulfilled Kapoor’s aim of creating “a contemplative and poetic experience”. Enough said.