London-based David Williams has spent the past 20 years with Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Column as the project manager for its creation. In the midst of this week’s complex process to install the 32-foot-high, 21,000-pound stainless steel artwork on the Museum’s Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, we pulled him aside to ask his unique perspective on this now-famous sculpture.
How long have you been involved with the project to realize Cloud Column?
I first started my association with the project in November 1999. It was an initial meeting to see how the sculpture was going to be fabricated. It was the first stainless steel sculpture to be made by the artist on this scale, and it was uncertain exactly how it was going to be created. The foundry came up with a great idea: Make it of stainless steel plates, welded together in segments and formed into the shape you see now. It took about five years to weld together, and we spent several years polishing it. I’ve lived with that sculpture a long time.
How is Cloud Column special to you?
It’s a unique work of art, the first one like this that the artist made. The process was invented for this work, and if something wasn’t quite right, another process was invented to try and make it correct. There won’t be another the same—it’s handmade and handcrafted. Because someone actually bent it into shape, it can’t be made simply in an industrial process. And that’s part of the enjoyment for me: It’s not just fabricated and coming off the end of a production line. The artist himself is in that sculpture. Everything that he thought, that he wanted—and maybe he changed his mind during that process a little bit—you can see in that sculpture. That’s what makes it such a great piece in my opinion.
What will visitors take away from their experience of Cloud Column?
Looking at the Cullen Sculpture Garden, they see fantastic artists’ work on display, but I think Anish’s is a very different sort of artwork. It requires some input from the viewer. It’s a very personal experience looking at this sculpture, simply because of its reflective nature. Everyone sees what they want to see in that sculpture, and I think that makes it really special.
Will you miss it now that it’s installed?
I will miss it, but I’m pleased it’s gone to a good home. Houston’s a great place and I think it’s a fantastic location: new museum building, a great sculpture garden. It’s not very often you can see three great Rodin bronzes and other works by some of the most famous artists in the world. It’s amongst good friends.
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“Cloud Column” is part of the new Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, which opens to the public on May 20, 2018. Learn more.