The majestic Houghton Hall & Gardens in Norfolk is one of Britain’s finest Palladian mansions, making it the perfect backdrop for hosting Anish Kapoor's largest outdoor show in the UK. This exhibition showcases his considerable talents with 21 of his large- scale pieces, including his iconic 35-foot-high Sky Mirror.
Built in 1720 for the first prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall is now owned by the Marquess of Cholmondeley. From now until 12 November, visitors to Houghton Hall will be able to view the exhibition. In addition to the stone sculptures, there are also a selection of drawings and smaller works that Kapoor has created over the past 40 years. Presented together, this series is meant to 'challenge the classical architecture of the house and the idyllic beauty of the grounds, whilst being in continuous dialogue and engagement with Houghton’s history.'
I have been a long-time fan of Anish Kapoor's work, but I must confess, I was less excited to see his stone sculptures. That being said, I was actually pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed them. Perhaps the grand backdrop of Houghton Hall and the fact it was the first exhibition I'd seen in months since lockdown, also positively influenced my experience.
As I was walking past his series of three large rectangular pieces made from onyx, limestone and granite, I overheard a fellow visitor, who said, “If these (the sculptures) were inside, I’d walk straight past them”. I strongly disagreed with their statement and was fascinated by the simplicity of the sculptures and the obvious skill and dedication that had gone into creating something seemingly so simple.
There was also an impressive array of works located within Houghton Hall. The Stone Hall filled with cherubs, ostentatious chandeliers and grand furniture is reflected back at you with a series of Kapoor’s brilliantly coloured mirrors, which beckoned one to stay and play. Each of the mirrors had a different reflective quality and with a room so full of detail and texture, one can easily spend hours in there. But with queues building up outside and restricted numbers allowed in the rooms, I had to let go of my indulgent self and move on!
For me, the north wing courtyard was my favourite spot. This smallish outdoor space hosted “Grace” (marble) and “Imminence” (Onyx). The romance of the rich historical backdrop brought out a playful, almost sexual element to these anti-form sculptures, with the containment of the sculptures somehow adding to their potency.
To provide the perfect ending to your visit, stop by the walled garden for a lovely respite before your return journey home. If you're interested in travelling further afield, you can also explore the wonderful Norfolk countryside, and visit the sprawling lavender and poppy fields and many fantastic beaches, such as the nearby Hunstanton Beach, which is a personal favourite.
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