Anish Kapoor was born in Bombay, India (now Mumbai), to a Hindu father and a Jewish mother whose family immigrated from Baghdad when she was a few months old. According to Kapoor, his mother had an Indian-Jewish upbringing, her father being the cantor of the synagogue in Pune. At this time, Baghdadi Jews constituted the majority of the Jewish community in Mumbai. His father, from a Hindu Punjabi family, was a hydrographer in the Indian Navy. Kapoor is the brother of Canada-based academic Ilan Kapoor.
Kapoor attended The Doon School, an all-boys boarding school in Dehradun, then in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. He is said to have "hated" his time at Doon. In 1971–1973, he travelled to Israel with one of his two brothers, initially living on a kibbutz. He began to study electrical engineering, but had trouble with mathematics and quit after six months. In Israel, he decided to become an artist.
In 1973, he left for Britain to attend Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea School of Art and Design. There he found a role model in Paul Neagu, an artist who provided a meaning to what he was doing. Kapoor went on to teach at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in 1979 and in 1982 was Artist in Residence at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. He has lived and worked in London since the early 1970s.
Kapoor became known in the 1980s for his geometric or biomorphic sculptures using simple materials such as granite, limestone, marble, pigment and plaster. These early sculptures are frequently simple, curved forms, usually monochromatic and brightly coloured, using powder pigment to define and permeate the form. "While making the pigment pieces, it occurred to me that they all form themselves out of each other. So I decided to give them a generic title, A Thousand Names, implying infinity, a thousand being a symbolic number. The powder works sat on the floor or projected from the wall. The powder on the floor defines the surface of the floor and the objects appear to be partially submerged, like icebergs. That seems to fit inside the idea of something being partially there." Such use of pigment characterised his first high-profile exhibit as part of the New Sculpture exhibition at the Hayward Gallery London in 1978.
Throughout his career, Kapoor has worked extensively with architects and engineers. Kapoor says this body of work is neither pure sculpture nor pure architecture. Notable architectural projects include:
Ark Nova is an Inflatable Concert hall that will Travel Around the Earthquake Struck Regions of Japan Designed in collaboration with Architect Arata Isozaki
Orbit is a Permanent Artwork for the Olympic Park
in Collaboration with Engineer Cecil Balmond
Temenos the first work of the recently announced Tees Valley Giants, the world's five largest sculptures, in collaboration with Cecil Balmond.
Temenos is situated in Middlehaven Dock, Middlesbrough
Dismemberment Site 1, installed in New Zealand at the Gibbs Farm sculpture park
owned by New Zealand businessman and art patron Alan Gibbs
56 Leonard Street in New York is in Collaboration with Architects Herzog and de Meuron
Two subway stations in Naples at Monte San Angelo and Triano in collaboration with Future Systems
A proposal for the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
Taratantara (1999–2000) was installed at the Baltic Centre for
Contemporary Art Gateshead and later at Piazza Plebiscito, Naples
Building for a Void, Created for Expo '92, Seville, in Collaboration with David Connor
Versalles Exhibition Fountain
Sky Mirror in Rickefeller Center, New York
Of his vision for the Cumana station in Monte Sant'Angelo, Naples, Italy Kapoor said: It’s very vulva-like. The tradition of the Paris or Moscow metro is of palaces of light, underground. I wanted to do exactly the opposite – to acknowledge that we are going underground. So it’s dark, and what I’ve done is bring the tunnel up and roll it over as a form like a sock.