Whilst we sit on the precipice of a possible global cataclysm, it's comforting to know that people are still finding time to vent their spleens over comparatively petty matters in creative ways. On that note, artist Stuart Semple has revealed his latest creation in an ongoing colour battle with Anish Kapoor. His latest unique colour concoction is an “open source” cherry-scented version of the Vantablack pigment exclusively licensed to Kapoor. The Black 1.0 Beta pigment is described by Semple as the “flattest, mattest, blackest art material on the planet,” and can be purchased by anyone (excluding Kapoor) for £16.99. It comes in two parts; a super-black matt pigment and an acrylic copolymer base that smells of black cherry. On the surface, it might sound a little petty to expressly forbid a specific individual from using a colour described as “open source,” however, there is a decidedly dark history between the two artists.
The release of the pigment follows an ongoing colour feud between Kapoor and Semple, which began when Kapoor secured exclusive rights to use VantaBlack in artworks. As we reported earlier this year, Semple also recently released the “world's pinkest pink” ("Cerise Pink") and banned Kapoor from using it. However, the artist got his hands on it and posted a picture of his middle finger dipped in the paint to his Instagram account with the caption “Up yours #pink.” Charming. As with the Pink pigment, Black 1.0 Beta will be sold on Semple's website. But before purchasing, customers must confirm that “the paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.” This is no mere ploy either, as customers must agree to a legal declaration, which 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.” Harsh.
To his credit, however, Semple admits the colour war has grown a little long in the tooth, and suggests that he is ready to busy the hatchet. He explains: “This whole colour war has gone too far. He's hoarding the black to make wristwatches, run off with my Pink and given everyone the finger. We've got a better black now so it’s time to bury the hate.” Although Semple's version of Vantablack is still in its testing phase, he hopes that the artist community will experiment and help him make it as strong as its exclusive counterpart. He adds: “Black V1.0 Beta is also the world's first open-source art material, with the pigment separated from its base to give artists an almost infinite set of possibilities in creating their own paints.”
Kapoor's Vantablack is currently the blackest substance known to man. So dark in fact, that it absorbs 99.96% of light. Vantablack is made up of a series of microscopic vertical tubes, so that when light strikes the pigment, it becomes trapped instead of bouncing off, and is continually deflected between the tubes. It was developed by British company NanoSystems for military purposes and astronomy equipment, but the company allowed Kapoor, whose previous works include a series of womb-like orbs in the Paris' Grand Palais, and an inflatable mobile concert hall for earthquake-affected areas, to be the only artist able to use it. This is a move that sparked outrage amongst other artists, including English painter Christian Furr, who felt that Kapoor was monopolising this incredibly powerful and unique material. Still, in my eyes there are not enough serious feuds in the art world anymore, so I welcome the conflict, because in the art world at least, conflict often breeds creativity.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.