Anish Kapoor to create memorial to UK 9/11 dead

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Anish Kapoor, the Indian-born artist behind some of the most extraordinary - and massive - sculptures of the past 25 years is the winner of a competition to create a memorial to the 67 British victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

Though an official announcement has yet to be made, The Independent on Sunday has learnt that Kapoor has beaten designs by 11 other artists, the cream of Britain's sculptors, to emerge as the preferred choice of the influential expat community in New York.

The Unity Sculpture will form the centrepiece of a new British-themed garden at Hanover Square, near the site of the old Twin Towers in south Manhattan.

Its precise form remains under wraps but it has been described as "large", "stone" and "featuring reflective surfaces". Given some of Kapoor's past projects, it is likely to be very large indeed.

A spokeswoman at the artist's studio in London said last night: "We are very pleased to have been selected. But he does not want to comment until there is an official announcement."

Kapoor, who has lived and worked in London since the early 1970s, is one of contemporary art's key figures. His work, which has been variously described as "elemental" and "metaphysical", features in private and public collections around the world. Much of his sculpture is impressive in scale and form, most recently borne out by his giant, worm-like installation Marsyas, which filled the huge turbine hall at London's Tate Modern gallery last year.

This summer the organisers of the garden project, dubbed "a gift from the British community in New York to the people of New York City", invited 12 British sculptors to submit designs that symbolised the bond between the US and the UK.

Among the entrants were artists such as Sir Anthony Caro, Julian Opie, Antony Gormley and Richard Deacon. After adjudication by a panel that included American and British art experts, it is understood that Kapoor's work emerged as the winner.

But it is not clear when an official announcement will be made. Just as there have been months of bitter wrangling over the final design for the building to replace the Twin Towers, which finally came to an end on Friday with the unveiling of Daniel Libeskind's 1,776ft glass and steel Freedom Tower, so too, Kapoor's sculpture is already caught up in bureaucracy.

The British artist's work must now get final approval from the influential guardians of the city's artistic integrity, the New York Art Commission. The commission, made up of American artists, designers and academics, vets art and architectural work proposed for the city's open spaces and has the final say on any piece intended for public areas. A decision on the Unity Sculpture is already more than two months overdue, and art-world insiders in New York say that the decision "might not be taken for months".

"It's a big enough hurdle that anything could happen," said one supporter of the Kapoor sculpture.

"The commission could decide against," said Peggy Brown of the British Memorial Garden Trust, which is managing the project and raising the $3.5m (£2m) needed to complete it. "It's typical of New York City - 'We don't do things fast'. But we're ready to go."

The first phase of the memorial garden project is expected to begin next spring, with the finished garden opening in summer 2005. But what form Kapoor's sculpture finally takes is far from certain - whatever the wishes of British New Yorkers.