For museum goers and non-museum goers alike, the Leeum Samsung Museum in Seoul presents an astonishing exhibition of works by renowned Indian-born British artist, Anish Kapoor that is certainly worth visiting. I have to stress that this show does not require you to have much knowledge of the artist, or art in general for that matter, to enjoy. In fact, once you step inside and experience it, be prepared as Kapoor’s sculptures will bring you into a world of wonder and reality.

This is the first retrospective for the artist in East Asia and his pieces fit well into Leeum’s vast and distinctive art space. If you’ve never visited the museum before, it holds the largest if not the best collection of international modern art in Korea, along with a solid collection of Korean art and artifacts, 36 national treasures and Korean Buddhist art. The rotating exhibition wing, where you’ll find Kapoor’s work, and its contemporary design and architecture make it a great venue to feature unique exhibitions of global artists at the top of their game.

As you approach the museum, located on the foothills of Namsan (Hannam-dong) towards the Hyatt Hotel, the first thing you’ll see on your right is an outdoor sculpture park with three of Kapoor’s recent stainless steel pieces on display. I find these works to be my least favorite although I must admit; I did find myself feeling like a child in front of a funhouse mirror seeing my upside-down, distorted reflection on the piece “Vertigo Bilbao.” But when you enter the museum lobby and head down to the special exhibit, a massive egg-shaped structure aptly named “Cave” awaits to devour you as the mouth of this work provokes you to enter into the void.

Left, right, up, down and center, no matter how you look at Kapoor’s pieces, they never cease to amaze. Every angle gives you a fresh look and that feeling of excitement and mystery. “Yellow” which confronts you as soon as you turn away from “Cave” will probably be the brightest void you’ll ever see. Works in particular that resonate include “Untitled” and “My Body Your Body.” (“Yellow, “Untitled” and “My Body Your Body” are all part of Kapoor’s “Void” series from the 1990s). Perhaps it’s because I gravitate towards darker, richer colors. It could also be the fact these pieces warped me into a contemplative state of being—a moment to pause and reflect.

Finally, as you make your way up to the second floor of the exhibition, the scent of burnt wax welcomes you and as you turn to the left, a large circular sculpture firmly sits in the center of the room. Named “My Red Homeland,” at first glance, it reminds me of a record player and may not seem as accessible or as taking as the “Void” works; however, it still has an overwhelming presence and the smell adds to the atmosphere and effects your interaction with the space and the work.

I realized after viewing this exhibition that what I absolutely love about Kapoor’s work is that he’s able to address universal themes of the human condition without being too conceptual about it. Yes, the forms and the arrangements may appear abstract but his work invokes curiosity and begs you to dig deep into the soul. I think all great art regardless of shape or genre can communicate this well and successfully for any audience. Anish Kapoor is one of few artists who have been able to achieve this lifetime endeavor. But I must say this for all those pursing the arts: the journey is worth it. Just take a minute to stand and look.

The Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Leeum Samsung Museum opened October 25 and runs through February 8th, 2013.

Words by Chung Park. See more of his work on creative culture website Aweh.
Images courtesy of the Leeum Samsung Museum.