How Anish Kapoor's Venice installation went up in smoke

Visitors left confused after artist's critique of the 'immaterial' simply fails to function

Anish Kapoor's "Ascension" was to be one of the highlights of this year's Venice Biennale. The work, a whisp of smoke ascending from the floor to a huge extractor fan set in the ceiling of the Basilica di San Giorgio, an ancient church set apart on its own island, emphasises the "immaterial becoming object", according to the artist.

Visitors to the exhibit on its unveiling on Tuesday were bamboozled after a tornado-like column of smoke spluttered, letting out little more than a faint stream of vapour that disintegrated after several metres.

A spokesperson for the artist, said staff on-site were forced to shut the show's doors late yesterday, after the work produced less smoke than is usual. The spokesperson said it was a subtle work "open to misinterpretation".

But broadcast and print art critic Waldemar Januszczak could scarcely hide his disdain. "What should be big, firm and erect is a bit of a flop," he said.

A professional at a major museum, who also saw the work as it produced less smoke, tried to defend the work.

"I think it's very tricky with site-specific commissions," he said. "They need to live and breathe in that space, and openings don't always replicate how a piece is going to look throughout an entire exhibition. At the beginning, you have 300 people coming through the door; later on, you may have 30. I am sure during the rest of the Biennale it will be awe-inspiring.

A confused visitor said: "They wouldn't let people in, and then they did, and it didn't work".

The Biennale's website calls the work a "clear example of that branch of contemporary art research which does not want just to surprise, but that wants to offer the start for reflections on actual and delicate issues."

"In my work, what is and what seems to be often become blurred," said Kapoor. "In Ascension, for example, what interests me is the idea of immateriality becoming an object, which is exactly what happens in Ascension: the smoke becomes a column. Also present in this work is the idea of Moses following a column of smoke, a column of light, in the desert."

Designed by Andrea Palladio from 1565 onwards, and completed by his pupil Vincenzo Scamozzi in the first decade of the 1600s, it is the first time the Basilica has been used to house a contemporary art work. Ascension was first displayed in Italy's San Gimignano gallery in 2003.

Venice Diary

* This year's Irish pavilion was beset by controversy before the Biennale had even started. The Irish chose Emily-Jane Kirwan, a director at New York's Pace Gallery, as the commissioner for its national space. Eyebrows were therefore raised when Kirwan chose sculptural artist Corban Walker to create three new site-specific installations for the Irish space. Which gallery represents Walker? New York's Pace Gallery.

* Award for the best office-block-sized yacht goes to Roman Abramovich, whose colossal boat Luna occupies a prime position outside the city's Giardini. At a measly 115-metres long, the boat contains two swimming pools and a master cabin where Abramovich and his girlfriend Daria Zhukova can sleep beneath the stars.

* Glasgow-based sculptor Karla Black pulled no punches when it came to unveiling her work. "This shows to young artists in Scotland that yes, one day you could also show your work here, you do not have to go to London to make your work," she said.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before