Artists Anish Kapoor and Stuart Semple have been fighting for months over intensely-colored art supplies, particularly black, pink and glitter. Their spat has reached heights of pettiness that most of us can only dream of, and this art feud is so amazing that we can’t help but wonder if it’s some kind of performance art.
The Blackest Black
It all began last year, when British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor infuriated the art world by claiming exclusive rights to use the world’s darkest shade of black.
How can an artist call dibs on a color? It’s because the pigment, Vantablack, is not just ordinary paint. It’s a unique chemical substance made of carbon nanotubes. Vantablack is trademarked and owned by Surrey NanoSystems Limited. Anyone who uses the Vantablack name in their products needs written permission from the company. Even using the pigment requires a special high-tech process; you can’t just dip a paintbrush in it.
Evidently, Kapoor got the exclusive rights to use Vantablack. And Kapoor is pretty lawsuit-happy, so anyone who tries to defy him and paint with Vantablack risks a trip to court.
Naturally, other artists really wanted to use Vantablack. They were pissed at Kapoor’s claim, and at Kapoor’s long history of obnoxious behavior.
But one artist, Stuart Semple, decided to take revenge in a gloriously petty way.
The Pinkest Pink
In retaliation for Kapoor’s total dick move, Semple created Pinkest Pink, which is exactly what it sounds like: a new, ultra-intense shade of pink. He put it up for sale to anyone on Earth except Anish Kapoor.
Here’s what it says on the order page for Pinkest Pink:
This ultra-bright paint by Stuart Semple is available to everyone except Anish Kapoor! (Who won’t share his black!)
*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 it’s [sic] way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.
The Middlest Finger
But Semple’s triumph did not last long. Soon afterward, Kapoor posted a picture of his raised middle finger coated in Pinkest Pink with the caption “up yours.”
Evidently, Kapoor had gotten his hands on of some of Semple’s pigment. What a mature way to announce it!
Stuart soon replied with an Instagram of his own, apparently showing himself with his fingers coated in Vantablack.
The World’s Most Glittery Glitter
Stuart Semple wasn’t yet ready to concede defeat. He retaliated with a new substance, Diamond Dust, which he dubbed “the world’s most glittery glitter.”
Semple banned Kapoor from using it. The sale page for the glitter says:
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 high-grade glitter will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.
As of this writing, Kapoor’s Instagram does not display any sparkling middle fingers.
Catching the Pink Thief
But Semple wasn’t finished yet. Somehow he identified the scofflaw who smuggled a container of Pinkest Pink to Kapoor.
On Tumblr, Semple posted a legal notice he sent to London’s Lisson Gallery. In the letter, Semple accuses Lisson of conspiring with Kapoor to wrongfully obtain the pink pigment. Semple goes on to make the following demands:
- Your gallery would say sorry for giving my pink to Mr. Kapoor
- Kapoor would give me my PINK back. I don’t want him to have it.
- He will write 100 lines “I will be nice, I will share my colours” and he will post the same on his Instagram.
Failing the above, an agreeable settlement would also be:
- The re-imbursement of £3.99 (the cost of the PINK minus shipping)
- And Mr. Kapoor to void his exclusive agreement over the use of Vanta Black in art.
Kapoor has yet to respond.
Green and Yellow
Kapoor’s silence has not stopped Semple. He’s still fighting the good fight. At the end of 2016, Semple unveiled two more ultra-bright pigments, GREEN and YELLOW. Kapoor doesn’t seem to have snatched up either of them yet.
Will Kapoor “be nice” and share Vantablack with the rest of the art world? Part of us hopes so; it’s really unfair of him to stifle other artists’ freedom of expression. But another, pettier part of us hopes he never concedes, because this feud is amazing and we never want to see it end.