Being British, Indian, part-Hindu, and part-Jewish, you’d think Anish Kapoor would have enough colors to deal with. Apparently not: The world-famous artist, in a rather bold way, has just claimed a new color. Last year, Kapoor purchased the exclusive rights to VantaBlack, the blackest black on earth, making it his and entirely his alone. Which, of course, spurred an all-out color war.
“We all remember kids at school who wouldn’t share their colouring [sic] pencils, but then they ended up on their own with no friends. It’s cool, Anish can have his black. But the rest of us will be playing with the rainbow!” says British artist Stuart Semple. Even if Kapoor is missing out on the rainbow, how did he get the golden opportunity of playing with VantaBlack?
“Imagine a space that’s so dark that as you walk in, you lose all sense of where you are, what you are, and especially all sense of time,” was how Kapoor explained the light and radiation-absorbing material to the BBC. “Something happens to your emotional self, and in disorientation, one has to reach in for other resources.”
The synthetic material was developed by U.K.-based Surrey NanoSystems in 2013, with the intent to use it in optics, military, and aerospace. But when Kapoor called them about using the color in his artwork, the company was absolutely tickled pink. “We are delighted that an artist of Anish Kapoor’s stature and reputation is interested in exploring its possibilities in the creative sphere,” said the company’s chief technology officer, Ben Jensen. Jensen also explained why Kapoor is the only artist with access. “His life’s work had revolved around light reflection and voids,” Jensen said. “Because we didn’t have the bandwidth to work with more than one—we’re an engineering company—we decided Anish would be perfect.”
Everyone was positively green with envy, and Semple—the one still feeling stained by the color pencil-hoarding school kids—released his own coloriest colors in protest. Unlike VantaBlack, the pigments can be purchased by anyone. Well, almost everyone.
“These ultra-bright paints by Stuart Semple is available to everyone except Anish Kapoor! (who won’t share his black!),” reads a note on Semple’s website. “Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that 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. To the best of your knowledge, information, and belief this paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor. #ShareTheBlack”
Despite Semple’s best efforts, Kapoor was able to get his hands on Pinkiest Pink. He posted a response to the protester’s campaign on Instagram along with some off-color language.
Semple, of course, turned beet red with anger. And so, he went back to the drawing board and came up with more un-Kapoor-attainable paints. On June 27, he released his unicorn paints, which change color in different temperatures. With the release of the new product, Semple found a way to tint—I meant taint—Kapoor’s reputation even further.
If you’ve brushed up on other Kapoor happenings, you know he’s the creator of the Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park, that he has been knighted, that his art can be found in every 2015-issued British passport, and that he has an honorary doctorate from Oxford.
His family’s history is just as colorful. Kapoor is the grandson of an Indian synagogue’s cantor, has lived on a kibbutz in Israel (which is also where he started painting), and created the Holocaust Memorial for the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. He was the recipient of the Genesis Prize, known as “the Jewish Nobel,” in recognition of his “actions and achievements [expressing] a commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and the State of Israel.” He then donated the $1 million prize money to helping refugees. He may not be able to use Semple’s new hue-changing paint, but he’ll always have a place in our hearts. After all, he’s already shown us his true colors.