An Art Addiction: Confessions of a Classical Art Aficionado


Manu Kondapi

Cloud Gate, created by Anish Kapoor, is located in Millenium Park in downtown Chicago and is an iconic example of contemporary art in this day and age.

Manu Kondapi, Campus Life Editor

1. Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez
2. The Veiled Virgin, Giovanni Strazza
3. The Thinker, Auguste Rodin
4. Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor
5. David, Michelangelo
6. Lady in the Moonlight, Raja Ravi Varma
7. Pieta, Michelangelo
8. Spring Morning in the Han Palace, Qui Ying
9. Christina’s World, Andrew Newell Wyeth
10. The Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

I’m no artist. I barely trust myself enough to draw a circle in Physics, let alone do I have enough talent to create a masterpiece that will hang in museums for decades following to be appreciated and critiqued by the general public. Though I may not possess this exquisite talent, what I do retain is a great appreciation for both the artist and the art form.

This past fall, as I hunted for an answer to an essay prompt regarding my innovation and curiosity, I couldn’t help but connect myself to this momentous appreciation.  “A picture is worth a thousand words” as the adage goes (though we’re only giving you 500). Submit a picture or photo and tell us how it relates to your intellectual curiosity or innovative spirit.” And this is what I came up with.

Contemporary art isn’t necessarily my forte. Call me a traditionalist, but I prefer the classical stylings of Ravi Varma, Michelangelo, and Velázquez. At least, I did until I came across Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Perhaps the most famous mirror in the world, Cloud Gate is composed of 168 stainless steel plates fused together seamlessly, creating an illusion of liquid mercury from afar and of intimacy and futuristic appeal from nearby. The surface brings citizens, sky, and city into the same vicinity, creating a close connection between the sculpture and its viewers.

Much like me, Anish Kapoor, the architect of Cloud Gate, is Hindu. His inspiration for the art piece came from the lingam and the yoni- polarities present in both Hinduism and Buddhism. These contrasts influenced him to reflect such a concept within the sculpture to evoke a sense of duality: sky-earth, internal-external, and reality-reflection. To me, Cloud Gate represents the duality in my own life- my ability to combine my Indian heritage with my American upbringing.

I’ve never belonged completely- and neither has Cloud Gate. Its success is actually quite surprising, considering the misfortune of other public modern art pieces, most of which are supplanted due to public opposition. As an American born Indian, I am criticized for being unable to completely align with my Indian culture. It is widely perceived that children of immigrants, first-generation Americans, attempt extreme assimilation with American culture – we’ve allegedly dismissed our roots and our culture in favor of conformity. I think we’re misunderstood. I believe that because I’ve been born and raised in the United States, I try much harder than the average Indian to preserve my heritage. Though contemporary art and I are widely misjudged, there is something we share: we are both connectors, trying to relate two incongruent parts of our being to create something novel, to introduce change and make an impact on society.

Contemporary art is not an abstract and incomprehensible concept; rather, it is a way to connect our past to our present, our present to our future. On its own, it may seem unfathomable, just random lines scribbled onto a canvas, but once its potential is realized, the style holds so many possibilities. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the art form since I realized its penchant for self-discovery. It’s meant to make you think, to use your past experiences and intellectual curiosity to form your own perception of the art. As a modern blend between sculpture and architecture, Cloud Gate is known as a gateway to the future, a modern art form that embraces change and innovation. And as a self-proclaimed changemaker, I too want to do the same.