Stata Center | Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor

Non-Object (Plane), 2010

Stainless steel


192 in. x 84 in. (487.68 cm x 213.36 cm)

Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds and generous gifts from an anonymous donor; Robert Sanders ’64 and the Sanders family; The David W. Bermant Foundation: Color, Light, Motion; and Julian Cherubini, MIT Class of 1957

In my time taking computer science classes at MIT, I’ve spent countless hours in, at, and around the 30-numbered Vassar street buildings. Although I walked past artwork every day, I realized that I had never taken the time to really appreciate it, or learn some of the history of how it got there. This tour is the result of my and some of my CSAIL friend’s curiosity about our surroundings.

This tour was created by Claire Traweek, class of 2020. Traweek was a List Center student guide for four years.

Entering the Stata center from the front Vassar Street doors near the Collier Memorial, you are greeted by an atrium that contains Anish Kapoor’s Non-Object (Plane), and since 2013, 1,000 paper cranes folded in honor of Officer Sean Collier. 

Anish Kapoor is perhaps best known for his years-long controversy over Vantablack, a material to which he holds exclusive rights. This material, that absorbs 99.96% of visible light, is on-brand for Kapoor, who is endlessly experimenting with space and form, something that is evident in the endless curved reflection of Non-Object. White paper cranes, fragments of skylight, and slivers of the entryway reverberate endlessly across the shiny, mirrored surface of the piece. As you approach, there’s a very limited angle at which you can see yourself, undistorted, against a limitless backdrop of chaos. Can you position yourself in a place in which you have a clear reflection?

Building Number: 32G

Accession Number: PFA.2010.002

Audio Transcript

Living and working in London since the 1970s, Mumbai-born Anish Kapoor is known for his deceptively simple, highly polished stainless steel sculptures. Titled Non-Object (Plane), the massive curved sheet of metal in the busy lobby of MIT's Stata Center provides the perfect counterpoint to the Frank Gehry-designed building. This 2010 commission was enabled by funds from the MIT Percent-for-Art, a program of the List Visual Arts Center. Begun at MIT in 1968, the initiative allocates a portion of the budget from each new building project or major renovation to the purchase or commission of art for public space.

Lisa Corrin, Director of the Block Museum, Northwestern University.

When you come through the door of the building, at first you don't notice the Anish Kapoor sculpture. You think you're standing opposite a large reflecting mirror. But what is so fascinating about this object is that unless you stand in a particular spot, you can't even see yourself. You see the reflections and refractions of Gehry's curving architecture, the rich pattern of surfaces of the materials that Gehry has used in contrast to the dynamic movement of the street outside. There's an incredible sense of interconnectedness between the sculpture, the building, and the entire landscape outside of it.

When you stand in exactly the right position, you begin to see parts of yourself, but you begin very quickly to dissolve. And you begin to question exactly what your perspective on the world really is.

The piece, notes Corrin, almost has the feel of a funfair mirror, animated by light from both the lobby's overhead skylight and clerestory window.

There's something about losing our identities in the play of light and movement, the shifting of the surfaces, that allows us to leave our bodies and enter a completely different space, a space that can be described as spiritual, the space of the unconscious.