"Oh, gross! I nearly threw up," shouted someone standing in front ofMy Red Homeland, a centerpiece of British artist Anish Kapoor's exhibition at CAFA Art Museum in Beijing.
"It looks like a huge meat grinder. Heaps of mince mixed with blood," said the young lady, cupping her hand around her mouth to avoid the pungent odor of wax.
She admitted she had expected to experience the appealing work of an internationally-acclaimed artist.
"This installation is hair-raising, making me think of a slaughterhouse," another visitor said.
"Bloody scenes I've seen in films by Quentin Tarantino and Jiang Wen all came flooding back," another added.
The shocking installation, 12 meters across, is comprised of a metal block, a circular metal surface and 25 tons of scarlet wax. The metal block moves gently like a minute hand on the face of a clock, churning the wax and generating various shapes.
It is one of four centerpieces in the Indian-born artist's first blockbuster solo in China at the CAFA Art Museum. The other part of the show will be staged on Nov 11 at the Taimiao Art Museum (Imperial Ancestral Temple Art Museum), next to the Forbidden City.
CAFA show features four monumental projects central to his recent practice, and a number of models of works chronicling his decades-long exploration. Exhibits at the Taimiao Art Museum include a roster of Kapoor's earlier creations.
The Beijing solo is "designed to offer Chinese artists and the general public a rare chance to examine Kapoor's visual language," said CAFA Art Museum director Zhang Zikang. "It is also a major event for Sino-British cultural exchange."
While the art community in China is very much familiar with Kapoor and has long been expecting such a show, he is little known among average Chinese, noted Lin Yong, a frequent visitor to the museum.
Kapoor was born in Mumbai to a Hindu father and a Jewish mother in 1954 and moved to London in the early 1970s to pursue art.
In the 1980s, his bright monochromatic geometric or biomorphic sculptures, usually taking simple, curved forms, soon took the European art world by storm.
At the 1990 Venice Biennale, he was chosen as the only artist to represent Britain, and only one year later he won the prestigious Turner Prize. Ever since, his colossal and often site-specific creations have been all the rage in the global art scene.
Hailing from a multicultural background, Kapoor believes strongly that art is global.
"'Globalized' means an art object has made a connection between what it is and what the viewer brings to the situation," the artist explained, looking forward to Chinese viewers' interactions with his artworks prior to his China solo. "In making my work, I like materials, images and objects that make these connections that grab viewers."
Symphony for a Beloved Sun, the blood-red installation dominating the atrium of the CAFA Art Museum, is another piece that has prompted many to gaze, ponder and discuss.
Featuring a giant sun-like red disk supported by two black iron tripods, the "symphony" is played as two conveyers slowly transport crimson wax blocks upward.
Momentum gradually builds as the blocks near the conveyers' tip, and the climax doesn't come until the blocks plummet and kiss the ground — already strewn with piles of blood-red bricks of wax.
"The project struck me as the blood of those heroic martyrs in my history book when they were slaughtered during protests," said Zhu Hanru, a third-grader.
The showpieces stunned Chinese art professionals as well. "It's awesome. And I mistook it as a creation of some Japanese artist. It reminded me of the Japanese national flag," said a visual designer who declined to reveal his name.
Recalling his first encounter with the piece at Berlin's Martin Gropius Bau exhibition hall back in 2013, the young visual artist said Kapoor's creation "only triggered thoughts of warfare and the death it entails".
"Kapoor is like a medium," said Lin Yong, a lay Buddhist, seeing Kapoor's art from another perspective. "He just presents what he saw in the unknown to us through his work."
"I know he is also a staunch Buddhist, and his artwork, albeit odd and stunning, can activate viewers' imagination, which is often dormant for most of the time," Lin added.
In the presence of his enigmatic work, Chinese viewers young and old are spellbound and give free rein to their imagination.
Such is the magic of Kapoor's work, or perhaps such is what the visual superstar wants to achieve through it.
"What I try to do is to make objects that challenge the viewer and ask questions about how the viewer relates," Kapoor once said.
"The structure and color of Kapoor's work made a tremendous visual impact on me," said Wu Jian, a painter who attended the exhibition.
"I have no clue how they should be categorized. It seems that they are neither sculptures, nor installations, nor architecture," Wu added, concluding they somehow belong to a convergence of the three genres.
"Kapoor has pushed sculpture based on visual experience to the extreme. Everyone who comes to the exhibition needs to note this," Sui Jianguo, a famed Chinese sculptor and conceptual artist, said to China Daily Website.
Kapoor's work is special in that it builds a new understanding of space on the basis of phenomenology. Hence, to approach Kapoor's artworks, people have to view them in the flesh, Sui added.
The Taimaio exhibition runs until Dec 28, while the CAFA show ends on Jan 1.If you go:
9:30-17:30, Tuesday to Sunday.8 Huajiadian South Street, Chaoyang district, Beijing010-6477-1575北京市朝阳区花家地南街8号中央美术学院美术馆
9:00-17:00, Monday to Sunday. East of the Tian'anmen Square, Dongcheng district, Beijing 010-6525-2189北京市东城区天安门东侧劳动人民文化宫(太庙)
Yang Xiaoyu contributed to this story.