A Man Fell Into An Art Installation Called Descent Into Limbo

Published August 21, 2018
Updated February 6, 2019

The installation looks as if it's a 2-D painting of a black circle, but is actually a precarious illusion, featuring an eight-foot drop.

Vantablack Kapoor

Horacio Villalobos – Corbis/Corbis via Getty ImagesIndian artist Anish Kapoor talks to journalists during the presentation of his exhibition at the Serralves Museum and Park on July 6, 2018 in Porto, Portugal.

Art can sometimes play tricks on the mind thanks to optical illusions, although rarely does this kind of art put anyone in real danger.

But one art installation did, as a man visiting the Fundação de Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal on Aug. 13 accidentally fell into the work of famed artist Anish Kapoor titled Descent Into Limbo — which features a hole in the ground made to look like a mere spot on the floor.

The visitor — reportedly an Italian man in his 60s — allegedly wanted to see if the void was indeed just that and subsequently fell about eight feet to the bottom of the installation. To the illusion’s credit, there were multiple caution signs set up around the piece as well as a guard tasked with keeping visitors away from the hole.

Although the man did have to be hospitalized after the fall, a spokesperson for the museum told Artnet News that “The visitor has already left the hospital and he is recovering well.”

Kapoor Vantablack

Horacio Villalobos – Corbis/Corbis via Getty ImagesDescent Into Limbo.

Kapoor began making “void” pieces in 1985, and so the success of Descent Into Limbo‘s trickery is of no surprise. First created back in 1992, the work is meant to trick the eye into thinking that what you’re seeing is a flat 2-D painting of a circle when it is, in fact, an actual hole.

The impressive illusion is made possible by Kapoor’s use of Vantablack — the blackest material in existence.

The nanocarbon-based material was created by the British company Surrey NanoSystems in 2014 and absorbs 99.965 percent of all visible radiation — meaning ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light.

Kapoor won the exclusive rights to the world’s darkest material in 2016, as according to the company, Vantablack “requires specialist application to achieve its aesthetic effect… the coating’s performance beyond the visible spectrum results in it being classified as a dual-use material that is subject to UK Export Control.” Fascinated by the concept of voids, Kapoor naturally fought hard to secure the rights to use Vantablack in his work.

Vantablack Olympics

Sergei Bobylev/TASS via Getty ImagesPeople walk outside a pavilion designed by British architect Asif Khan in Pyeonchang at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games; the building is sprayed on the outside with Vantablack, the darkest chemical substance on Earth.

By using Vantablack for Descent Into Limbo, Kapoor was able to completely eliminate any visible depth in the piece. No curves nor contours are visible — all the eye sees is nothingness.

And in the case of the man who fell in, Kapoor’s use of Vantablack perhaps works a little too well.

As for the art installation, the museum has been forced to temporarily close Descent Into Limbo and reopen it with new safety precautions in place to prevent an incident like this one from happening again.

Next, check out this roundup of bizarrely awesome public art that exists around the world. The, discover the weirdest museums on Earth.

Bernadette Deron
Bernadette Deron is a digital media producer and writer from New York City who holds a Master's in publishing from New York University. Her work has appeared in Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Insider.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Deron, Bernadette. "A Man Fell Into An Art Installation Called Descent Into Limbo." AllThatsInteresting.com, August 21, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/anish-kapoor-descent-into-limbo. Accessed May 28, 2024.