Anish Kapoor will debut works made with the “blackest material in the universe” during the 2021 Venice Biennale.

Daria Simone Harper
Mar 12, 2020 4:10PM, via The Art Newspaper

Anish Kapoor. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Renowned artist Anish Kapoor will present a new series of works using the “blackest material in the universe” at the Gallerie dell'Accademia during the 2021 Venice Biennale. This will be the first time the public sees the Vantablack S-VIS material, developed by British scientific research company Surrey NanoSystems, used in a work of art. The “nano-material” was invented in 2014 for aerospace purposes and traps 99.96% of light falling on its surface.

In 2016, Kapoor obtained exclusive rights to develop artistic uses of a sprayable form of the material; a number of artists expressed frustrations and questioned the right of any one artist to have control over a color. One artist in particular, Stuart Semple, has been engaged in an on-again, off-again color quarrel with Kapoor. Kapoor said any controversy over his use of the Vantablack material is “misinformed” and requires a specialized technique.

Kapoor explained the mysterious process to The Art Newspaper thusly:

The particles stand up like velvet when they are put to a reactor. To give you a sense of scale if the particle were 1m-wide it would be 300m-tall. When the particles stand up next to each other light gets trapped in between each particle.

Due to security measures related to the material’s potential military uses, which include it being used as “a cloaking material for hiding satellites,” even Kapoor is unsure how exactly the material is applied to surfaces. Works of art incorporating the material are “almost entirely lacking in dimension" and can use negative space to produce an 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 hospitalized after he fell into Descent into Limbo (1992), an installation that creates the impression of a circular void in the gallery floor.

Anish Kapoor, Descent into Limbo, 1992, at the Serralves Museum. Photo by Filipe Braga, Courtesy Fundação de Serralves, Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto.

Daria Simone Harper