by Eleni Bountoureli
Lawsuits in the art field are common. Artists suit other artists, countries, auction houses, institutions and vice versa. The list continues to grow as years go by and as the art market gains more power and prestige, of course this practice is highly logical from the art business point of view, however I cannot stop myself from asking ‘’ Do artists nowadays care more about their claims than their Art?’’.
One may argue that caring about intellectual property and ensuring copyrights, is in fact caring about their art. However, when an artist spends more time in a courtroom than in a studio, to me, is quite problematic. Regardless the quite romantic art perception of mine, each artist is also a businessman/woman who has every right to resort to the law each time there is the slightest suspicion of infringement.
Recently, Anish Kapoor threatened to follow all legal actions against the creator of the Beans’ (as is more commonly known) doppelganger, after an un-named -up to date- Chinese Artist, revealed a sculpture very similar to the famous Cloud Gate in Chicago (2006). The Bean, is an important landmark and a major tourist attraction of the city of Chicago and one of Kapoor’s most famous pieces.
In a statement the Turner prize winning artist stated that ‘’ It seems that in China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of other, I feel I must take this to the highest level and pursue those responsible in the courts. I hope that the Mayor of Chicago will join me in this action and that the Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement and allow the full enforcement of copyright.’’
To this clear lawsuit threat the Chinese side reacted via an official from the tourism agency of Karamay, Ma Jun who refusing to reveal the artist’s name commented only on the accidental resemblance of their oil bubble to the bean-shaped Kapoor’s piece, explaining that the piece is shaped that way due to the reference to the Black Oil Mountain, a local natural oil source, to which they paid an homage.
To be more specific, Mr. Ma in a phone interview with China Real Time said that ‘’ …people can enter the big bubble to visit and hold activities. There are some small bubbles around to make it more fun’’ before adding ‘’ You can’t say we’re not allowed to build a round sculpture because there already is a round one, while we use similar materials, the shapes and meanings are different, Cloud Gate intends to reflect the sky, but ours reflects the ground; that’s why we used granite to imitate oil waves.”
Mr Kapoor hasn’t yet reacted to that statement but it is rather logical to expect from him to follow the legal pathway to resolve this issue and maybe the recall of the Karamay’s piece.
However, Chicago’s Mayor E. Rahm made a public statement regarding this issue, along the lines of ‘’good art inspires but if you want to see the original piece come to Chicago’’ and to that a furious Kapoor wrote an open letter to the Mayor which you can find by clicking here https://news.artnet.com/art-world/anish-kapoor-criticizes-chicago-mayor-325300.
On Chinas Weibo microblogs (a Twitter counterpart) were some photos of the Karamay sculpture first appeared, users were furious commenting on the fast rhythms that their country can provide copies according to The Wall Street Journal.
Parthenogenesis in art is by definition nonexistent, inspiration is non- prohibited yet there are limits set on the grounds of respect for each artist and his/her work and morals.
Τhe litigation is still open, without any new activity or statements from either side.