Artist and fabric maker have a unique history together.
By Mason Riddle
It’s not easy to collaborate when one party has a strong, creative and unique vision. Yet it can be challenging, and even inspiring. Just ask Serge Ferrari about its collaboration with internationally renowned artist Anish Kapoor on three projects from 2002–2011.
The first issue for both was to clearly understand each other, to understand the vocabulary used by the other.
The Indian-born, British sculptor is recognized for his exploration of large, abstract, often biomorphic forms that are seductive in their intense color and tactile surfaces—blood red pigmented powders or highly reflective stainless steel, for example. The three projects include the temporary “Marsyas” at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London in 2002; the permanent 2009 “Dismemberment, Site 1,” an outdoor work in Kaipara, New Zealand; and the temporary “Leviathan” installed in the nave of Paris’ Grand Palais for Monumenta 2011.
“It was a veritable adventure for a well-known manufacturing company in a rather accurately defined world,” says Françoise Fournier, Serge Ferrari’s architecture marketing manager. “For our industry to come together with art like that was unusual. But it was far from mundane, and it somehow had us all buzzing!”
Each project demanded in-depth technical exploration to fulfill the artist’s precise color and transparency requests, and still have the monumental projects retain their shape. According to Fournier, the greatest challenge was to understand exactly what color Kapoor needed. “This is essential in such monumental works,” Kapoor says. “It’s indeed the first sensation one experiences when viewing the work.”
For Fournier, one of the reasons the collaboration worked was that “Anish loves factories. He loves technology,” she recalls. “He had such precise ideas about transparency. We were trying to find ways to achieve this transparency in the fabric and still work with the color he wanted.”
Finding the perfect fabric and technology was also critical as Kapoor’s massive sculptures could not sag or deform due to gravity. Serge Ferrari was able to produce the fabric in the precise color and transparency Kapoor wanted. Ultimately they did four tests to get it just right, “not a usual practice in our industry,” Fournier says. “It really does have to be art that we devote ourselves to that extent.”