In Brief

Anish Kapoor Gets Exclusive Rights to the World’s Darkest Material [UPDATED]

by Claire Voon on February 29, 2016

Aluminium foil coated in Vantablack (image via Wikipedia)

Aluminium foil coated in Vantablack (all images via Wikipedia)

Anish Kapoor now owns the exclusive rights to the world’s darkest material — a claim that, naturally, is pissing off other artists. The material is the very sexy Vantablack, known as the blackest black out there — much blacker than a panther swimming in a tarpit, the Ayam Cemami, or your wardrobe during your middle school goth phase. A substance developed by scientists at Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, Vantablack essentially absorbs all light — 99.965% of radiation, to be exact; even when coated on a textured and shiny surface such as aluminum, it creates an abyss free of creases that many have compared to a black hole.

Vantablack (click to enlarge)

Vantablack (click to enlarge)

Kapoor had announced his intentions to use the substance shortly after its creation, but he evidently felt he had to do more and claim it as his own, in the process barring others from using it. According to the Daily Mail, the artist Christian Furr — largely known for being the youngest artist to paint the Queen of England — had intended to use the material in a series of paintings and has expressed his outrage at being restricted to using less intense blacks.

“I’ve never heard of an artist monopolizing a material,” Furr told the Daily Mail. “Using pure black in an artwork grounds it.

“All the best artists have had a thing for pure black — Turner, Manet, Goya,” he said. “This black is like dynamite in the art world. We should be able to use it. It isn’t right that it belongs to one man.”

Kapoor often plays with how we perceive the materiality of objects and has noted that his affinity for the world’s darkest material stems from its ability to disorient viewers.

“The nanostructure of Vantablack is so small that it virtually has no materiality,” he told Artforum. “It’s thinner than a coat of paint and rests on the liminal edge between an imagined thing and an actual one. It’s a physical thing that you cannot see, giving it a transcendent or even transcendental dimension, which I think is very compelling.”

Researchers over at Surrey NanoSystem are evidently big fans of Kapoor’s work; the company’s founder and chief technology officer, Ben Jensen, described his art as “infectious.”

“He has an amazing ability to see things that other people don’t and he’s famous for his work in reflections and voids,” Jensen told the New York Times in 2014. “We never imagined we would be involved in something like that, but his ideas are infectious, and my research scientists love that their work could be used this way.”

Any artists tempted to use the material anyway should be wary of the consequences: if news reaches Kapoor that someone is treading on his artistic territory, it would not be out of character for him to swiftly threaten to sue the offender.

Update, 3/2: Surrey NanoSystems has clarified that Anish Kapoor holds exclusive rights to Vantablack only in the field of art. The company issued an extensive FAQ on its website that explains more about the material and its terms of use.

Correction: This article originally mislabeled Vantablack as a pigment rather than a material. We regret the error, and it has been fixed.

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