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Two high profile artists engage in fierce war over colour

Stuart Semple and Anish Kapoor are entangled in a feud that will certainly spill a whole lot of paint. The two artists have exchanged some ruthless jabs on social media and even threatened with legal action, and it’s all about the use of colour.

Anish Kapoor is one of the most renowned contemporary artists in the world. This Bombay-born British sculptor earned the prestigious Turner award – The UK’s most publicised art award – in 1991 and is famous for being the mind behind the famous Cloud Gate (informally called The Bean) in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower in London.

A few years ago, tech company Surrey NanoSystems developed the darkest man-made substance ever created. The unearthly compound, called Vantablack, is made of microscopic cylinders that prevent light from bouncing off, trapping it instead. The company states that it absorbs 99.965 per cent of incident light, making it “the closest thing to a black hole we’ll ever see.”

Controversially, Anish Kapoor made a special arrangement with Surrey NanoSystems in 2014 to gain the exclusive rights to use this state-of-the-art material.

In the company’s FAQ, Surrey NanoSystems states that there are certain technical and logistical complications that arise from the use of their product for artistic purposes, which is why they chose to license it to a big established studio like Kapoor’s to explore its possibilities in the art scene.

Artists around the world raised their voices in protest, like English painter Christian Furr who told the DailyMail: “I’ve never heard of an artist monopolising a material. Using pure black in an artwork grounds it… All the best artists have had a thing for pure black – Turner, Manet, Goya. This black is like dynamite in the art world.”

To oppose Kapoor’s move, contemporary British artist and curator Stuart Semple developed his own line of unique paints and set up an online shop to sell them at production cost – to anyone that is not Kapoor.

Anyone buying Semple’s products has to sign a declaration that states: “You are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor.”

In what was considered as a sleazy move and a “very shoddy inside job” by Semple, Kapoor did manage to get his hands on one of his “world’s pinkest pink” paint, and posted on Instagram a picture of himself giving the middle finger with the caption “Up yours #pink”.

Up yours #pink

A post shared by Anish Kapoor (@dirty_corner) on

Semple threatened with legal action and challenged Anish Kapoor to “own up”. He told art blog Dezeen “We’ll be dobbing him in, he will be told off and hopefully that will teach him to share his colours in future,” he added, “It would be nice if he owned up, said sorry and gave me my Pink back.”

Is there anything more fun that watching professional adults squabble in the public arena? This reminds us of Uwe Boll’s hilarious challenge to box anyone who criticised his films – which we have to say, are truly awful. In 2006 he fought four film critics and actually kicked the shit out of all of them, which all but confirmed he chose the wrong profession.

Colour war

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros