Kapoor vs Semple: the pettiest fight between one of world's richest artist and art's crusader of happiness
We have known about feuding artists. There is an apocryphal story about how Gauguin was behind Van Gogh losing his ear. On the other hand, there are tales of a weird rivalry between Da Vinci and Michelangelo from the Renaissance days. So we decided to have our unique take on perhaps the pettiest feud in contemporary art. *Let the fight begin*
Player 1: Sir Anish Mikhail Kapoor
Description: Kind of a big deal in the art world. An Indo-British cultural icon. He’s the man behind the most famous sculptures and installations in this century. He was the first living artist to be given a solo show at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Padma Bhushan awardee, winner of the Turner Prize, Premium Imperiale and Genesis Prize.
Powers: Talent. Money. Recognition. Elite friends. The accolade.
(Sir Anish Kapoor| Source: PTI)
Player 2: Stuart Semple
Description: A nice guy. A modern artist who has played with forms and mediums. A happiness crusader. Semple's continual appropriation of digital mediums put him in The Guardian's Ten Best Art Auctions (alongside Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei and Edvard Munch). Has redefined the Pop Art movement, according to some. Aware of current culture, politics and imagery. Tackles 'the current climate of fear' with art. Was dubbed the Jean-Michel Basquiat of his generation in some circles in the mid-00s.
Powers: The internet. Instagram. Can make pigments. Has a YouTube channel.
Weaknesses: A little flaky. Boomers might not like him. Has a YouTube channel.
(Stuart Semple| Photo: Instagram)
Round 1: The Blackest Knight
It all started with a colour. Not just any colour, but the blackest black officially ever produced, Vantablack. A shade so dark that it absorbs almost all the light that hits it. Surrey NanoSystems developed it, but it was Sir Kapoor who bought the exclusive rights to use it.
This is where the beef began. Semple and a section of the art world were incensed about how only one artist in the world could use the world's first pure black colour.
So Semple made his move by formulating the pinkest pink ever and made it available to everyone – except Kapoor. Literally, to purchase PINK one needs to make a legal declaration that “you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor [and] you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor.”
Sir Kapoor didn't take this lying down. He retaliated by getting hold of PINK anyway, dipped his middle finger in it and posted the picture on Instagram.
Round 2: The House that Kapoor Built
Semple struck back. With two pigments; the first one was called Diamond Dust, which is a glitter made out of glass. So that the painting is still visible after it's applied. This also was available to everyone, except a certain Sir Kapoor. And it being made of glass, sticking a finger in this would hurt quite a bit.
The second pigment he came up with was called Better Black and Black 2.0. While Vantablack is highly toxic, harmful and extremely expensive, Black 2.0 smells like cherries, costs around 4 pounds. Anish Kapoor is the only person who can use Vantablack. He is the only human being who can't use Black 2.0.
For Semple, Kapoor represents an unchecked art world elitism that has finally gone too far. “I think their generation is all about selling something for as much as possible, to as few elite people as possible,” Semple says. By contrast, Semple doesn’t make any money from selling the pigments he makes. “It’s about getting the colors out there and making them available.”
Winner: Stuart Semple
Round 3: "It's Semple, we kill the Kapoor"
It didn't end there. Kapoor's office threatened to sue Semple in the meantime, but that didn't materialise. Kapoor remained in the eye of the storm when the residents of Camberwell in London started a petition on Change.org to stop the artist from building a new studio in the neighbourhood that, according to the neighbours, was blocking the light to their own homes. To make the issue bigger, they contacted Semple, Kapoor’s nemesis. Semple’s response was to launch an innovative and unique colour-changing paint called “Unicorn” that, again, was available for everyone except Anish Kapoor.
A post shared by Stuart Semple (@stuartsemple) on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:49pm PDT
On Kapoor's 64th birthday, Semple created a Facebook event called 'Kiss The Bean', where he urged people to wear the 'Pinkest lipstick' or 'vaseline mixed with the pinkest pink' and kiss Kapoor's famous sculpture 'Cloud Gate' -the centrepiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois.
(Semple's call for 'Kiss the Bean' event| Source: Facebook)
Earlier this year, Semple created Black 3.0, which he claims, is the closest ever to the pure black. Almost anyone can buy it from his newly opened London art shop, The Art Shop. But again, Anish Kapoor can't. At The Art Shop, there is a full-time security detail posted on the door, armed with a picture of Kapoor. Semple is also asking customers to sign a declaration on entry “to ensure they will not share my creations with Kapoor or his associates”.
Winner: Stuart Semple
At this point, it seems that the 39-year old artist with anxiety is winning this match, but there is no reason for us to think that the elderly maestro won't strike back with something even prettier.
Call it a real artistic war, a marketing move, or just a battle of egos, as far as I am concerned, they can keep fighting. One of them is creating amazing and innovative materials while entertaining an audience, which, in my opinion, is what really matters about their feud.