Have you ever heard of a staple of public art known as "The Bean"?
I imagine that even if you haven't, at some point in your life, you have stumbled upon an image of this giant, belongs-in-chili-looking metallic beast framed against the Chicago skyline. It's one of those images that has succeeded in casually floating around the internet with an air of simultaneous importance and absolute triviality.
What I imagine you may not know as readily unless you've seen some of the beautiful Facebook discussions appearing as of late is that this piece is actually called "Cloud Gate" and was created by a London-based artist named Anish Kapoor.
Not too far into the past, we reach a time where the art world was abuzz about the creation of a brand new pigment phenomenon called Vantablack. The darkest shade of black in existence, it was and is a priceless entry into art as an entire concept - while it is a difficult substance to acquire and use, it is worth the find. Unfortunately, here in this story is where we see the entrance of one Anish Kapoor, not our favorite character of the story. Kapoor immediately went out and bought the rights to Vantablack, making himself the only person in the world who could legally use this incredibly impressive and important pigment in any way, shape, form or fashion. And of course, he wasn't quiet about this fact. He wanted the world to be aware. He wanted the world to know just how excluded they were from this priceless creation.
But don't fret. Here's where the fun begins.
Stuart Semple is a pigment creator who saw the debacle happening with Vantablack and chose to stand up against it. In an extraordinary turn of events, this man created a pigment called Pinkest Pink, a vibrant and beautiful pink pigment - the brightest in the world, as a matter of fact - fully available to the general public with one exception: Anish Kapoor himself. Right smack dab in the center of the page to buy this product (yes, this is a direct quote from his website Culture Hustle), an interested customer will see "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."
It is truly almost comical how stark the symbolism is, isn't it? In exchange for Kapoor taking the darkest black out of the hands of the public, Semple put the brightest pink into the world for everyone, successfully exchanging selfish darkness for a little extra light.
Through use of his talents, passions, and a knack for the art of petty I deeply envy, Semple took the opportunity to benefit the world when he had the chance. Kapoor was and is a well-known artistic creator, and the backlash against Semple's stand could have been dire. That was not in Semple's mind in the slightest. Rather, Semple validated the work of artists around the world simply because he could. He bridged the chasm Kapoor had endeavored to open simply because he could. He made his work fully available to the world regardless of how priceless it was simply because he could. Stuart Semple was kind simply because he could be. Thus, he changed the way people saw both priceless and art.
Vantablack is a priceless creation. I applaud the person who created it. And I want to believe that regardless of the situation in which it came to be, they made this pigment to be shared. To be seen. What Semple did by taking a stand against Kapoor is to remind artists that the work they choose to do and the way in which they choose to do it is just as priceless as the darkest black holed up in Kapoor's possession. And honestly, not just artists. I couldn't draw stick figures if my life depended on it, and I still felt my heart soar at the value in Semple's statement. I want to believe that what I do matters. I want my own work to be unique, and I want to see it shared with the world. What Semple did was remind people they matter. Outside of the realm of fancy equipment and absurd artistry stakes, he reminded people that they were people and that they were worthwhile.
So hats off to the greatest art feud I've ever seen. Hats off to the man who wouldn't stand idly by when people's hearts and artistry were at stake. Hats off to the man who reminded us that no matter what a world of selfishness and impassable obstacles may hold, each and every one of us is priceless.