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."
(Image: Surrey Nanosystems)