Leviathan by Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor

Leviathan, 2011, PVC, 33.6 x 99.89 x 72.23 m, Monumenta 2011, Grand Palais, Paris, ©Anish Kapoor / All rights reserved DACS / Artimage, London and ARS, NY 2019. Photo: Dave Morgan

Close Close
Zoom in Zoom in
Zoom out Zoom out
Reset image Reset image

‘He Looks On Everything’

Commentary by

This monumental sculpture takes the reader/viewer within Leviathan. Though the biblical text offers a largely external array of images, there are also allusions to the ‘inside’ of Leviathan. God dares us to touch (with terror), and to ‘open the doors of Leviathan’s face’ (Job 41:14 own translation).

Anish Kapoor takes up God’s challenge, enabling us to be intimate with Leviathan by inviting our touch of the polyvinyl fabric—probably less with fear than interested apprehension—and by confronting us with the interior of God’s monumental creation.

Perhaps by becoming more intimate with Leviathan, we are offered the possibility of becoming more intimate with God. By allowing Kapoor to conduct us into Leviathan, we also find ourselves conducted into a new relationship with aspects of God’s creation. Walking within Leviathan, we experience ourselves as puny and vulnerable but also present and alive. We see the world differently through the skin and the eyes of Leviathan: ‘It looks on everything that is high; it is king over all the sons of pride’ (41:34). All is reconfigured from within this body, both the world outside and we who are inside. The emotive language of Job 40:15–14 and 41:1–34 becomes an emotional experience within the interior of Kapoor’s work. And when we find our way outside, we discover that this creation (or creature) is even bigger than it had seemed from the inside.

Leviathan has texture, has an inside and an outside; Leviathan is an experience, an encounter. Indeed, as the biblical text declares, Leviathan must be ‘beheld’ by Job and readers of Job. ‘Nothing on earth is like it’ (41:33) thus becomes not only an imaginative but also a sensory reality.

The immensity of Kapoor’s Leviathan, which fills the Grand Palais in Paris, inhabiting more than 13,000 square metres of space, can help to make a sensory reality of Leviathan, the creature, and to disclose God, the creator. ‘Behold now’ says God to Job when beginning to describe Behemoth and Leviathan (40:15). Kapoor reiterates this divine summons, providing us with access to a phenomenon that is both actual and overwhelming. Like Job, perhaps, we are bewildered but transformed.



Menezes, Caroline. 2013. ‘Anish Kapoor: Leviathan’, Studio International: Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/anish-kapoor-leviathan [accessed 31 May 2018]

http://www.marthagarzon.com/contemporary_art/2011/05/monumenta-2011-leviathan-anish-kapoor [accessed 31 May 2018]

Read next commentary