A history of artist Anish Kapoor and his assholic mission to own the color black

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/22/pinkest-pink.html

Anish Kapoor is an artist and a colossal, controlling asshole: there was that time he said that the presence of his $270M sculpture in a Chicago park gave him the right to decide who could take pictures in a public space.

More recently, he's made headlines by licensing the "blackest black pigment" yet made in an exclusive deal that bans the company from selling the color to any other artist.

This prompted an hilarious retaliation from a young UK artist called Stuart Semple, who engineered the pinkest pink ever and then made everyone who bought it promise that they'd never let Kapoor use it.

A long recounting of the tale in Wired delves into the chemistry of the paints, the legalities of trademarking a color, and the artistic incoherence of demanding that no one else is allowed to use a pigment.

Kapoor hasn’t re-engaged with any of this. So far he has released just one piece of work using Vantablack, a $95,000 watch called the Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack, which uses the material on its face. (The watch comes from the Swiss maker MCT.) It was a limited edition run, so don’t get your hopes up.

“It’s totally absurd. Anish Kapoor can’t make anything with this stuff. It’s prohibitively expensive to manufacture, and the manufacturing process is beyond his capabilities,” Conway says. “That renders the whole situation really a meta situation, and it just becomes about these ideas.”

Semple’s hope for a fun little conceptual art piece turned into a big, giant conceptual art piece—the one we all deserved, maybe. New technologies are supposed to turn into new art. That’s how culture processes and understands them. In the 1990s, the medium was video. Today, art takes place on social media, with all of us as participants and audience at once. “In many ways, the conversation you and I are having is the piece of art that Anish Kapoor is creating, and that’s kind of cool,” Conway says. “The important thing about color is that it is ultimately an abstract concept. Kapoor has distilled the pigment out to its most abstract conception, the thing you can never actually make that is just an idea.”


[Adam Rogers/Wired]

(Image: Surrey Nanosystems)

And we’re 100% sure this isn’t all just…performance art, right? I have trouble getting angry, because I feel like at some point he’s going to release an artist statement about the whole shenanigan…


I’m reminded of Yves Kline.


Yes I thought that too, although International Klein Blue isn’t patented.

Alastair Reynolds’ short story ‘Zima Blue’ tells a story based on these megalomaniac artists. Worth checking out.


Verily, in the end hundreds of thousands of people have heard of this fellow now, whereas otherwise he probably would have languished in obscurity, at best making tchotchkes for the 0.01% to swap as investment vessels.


I may.

For Kline though, I think, megalomania was his brand.

Came here for this!

I saw a Klien show a few years back and I have never seen sooo many versions of Ultramarine. It was delightful.


Legitimate question…

So if you can be stopped, in Chicago, from taking a photograph of something in a public place…why doesn’t this, more or less, ban all photography? Surely just about anywhere you point a camera is going to contain something copyrighted…


why doesn’t this, more or less, ban all photography?

This is a valid question, and the answer turns out to be a stupid, complicated legal nightmare.

It’s a running gag/nightmare when it comes to (for example) CC-licensed outdoor photos on Wikipedia.


Oh, but it absolutely is - the Vantablack “controversy” anyways, for the reasons pointed out. Restricting a black pigment that can’t even be used for art is a conceptual performance artwork referencing Yves Klein blue, but with an added layer of absurdity.


I’m not sure about the bean in Chicago, but the likeness of certain structures (like the Empire State Building) is copy-written trademarked. You can certainly take a picture of it, but the second you try to use that photography in paid-for content, without first obtaining a license, you are violating copyright trademark. Crazy, I know. I think it’s the same principle that you can’t take a snapshot of George Clooney and use it to sell toilets without his permission.

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All he needs to do now is figure out how to add a DRM component to the paint /s


I believe that you’re talking about trade mark, rather than copyright.

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I don’t think i would feel any less (or more) annoyed by this asshole if it were so revealed.


Well, before he tried to argue that he had rights over photos taken of his $270M sculpture in Chicago, he had first installed a $270M in a major public space in Chicago. So he wasn’t exactly languishing in obscurity.

Also, you misspelled “money laundering” as “investment”.


Oops– yes, you’re absolutely correct!

Being an artist is carte blanche to be an asshole?


Depends if you are an asshole in an interesting way.


It seems to me that most of the interesting things in this case are what other people are doing in response to him. Doesn’t that just make him a sort of assholish muse?


Thalia or Melpomene