An immense sculpture in China is nearing completion, and it bears a striking resemblance to Chicago’s most famous work of public art. Today, Chinese news agencies shared images of “Big Oil Bubble,” a reflective, stainless steel, bean-shaped work currently underway in Karamay. The sculpture is not yet attributed to any artist, so perhaps Anish Kapoor has quietly been receiving commissions from China since this “oil bubble” resembles a souped-up version of his own reflective, stainless steel, bean-shaped “Cloud Gate” (2006), which stands in Millennium Park.
The bubble is being erected at the site of the first oil well in the booming city of Karamay, which means “black oil” in the Uyghur language. According to China News Service (CNS), it symbolizes a drop of oil; around it also lie mini reflective bubbles, recalling blobs of liquid mercury (Kapoor’s own source of inspiration). Karamay, in China’s northwestern-most corner, is trying to raise its profile as a tourist destination focused on the area’s history of oil exploration, according to CNS, so it’s not surprising that the city would so unabashedly rip off “Cloud Gate,” which ranks high among Chicago’s top tourist attractions and garners endless social media shares because it doubles as a giant selfie mirror.
Like Kapoor’s sculpture, Karamay’s “Big Oil Bubble” arches slightly off the ground, allowing people to explore its underbelly. Its surface is slightly warped — presumably to mimic the texture of oil — whereas that of Kapoor’s is smooth. So while its mirrored shell may not yield the most ideal, glamorous selfies, it still has the same all-encompassing reflective power of “Cloud Gate.” The other major difference between the two sculptures emerges when one goes underneath “Big Oil Bubble”: rather than leaving it bare, its designers have installed LED lights beneath it that shine colorful, lightning-like streaks across the metal surface.
The mind behind the model is still anonymous, but this is far from the first incident of a sculpture in China that has mimicked a famous artwork. Last year, a copy of Seward Johnson’s “Forever Marilyn” (which once stood in Chicago as well) allegedly made by multiple artists popped up in a Chinese dump. In 2013, illegal giant yellow rubber ducks appeared throughout China, modeled after Florentijn Hofman’s own globetrotting fowl. Explaining the nation’s bizarre tradition of replication, Hyperallergic’s Alicia Eler wrote:
China is known for shanzhai (aka “knock off”) culture of copying everything, from electronics to handbags to even Fake One-Road, an entire block of businesses that were copied from popular Western franchises. The intent of shanzhai is to make money off of a product or idea.
It’s hard to imagine that “Big Oil Bubble” isn’t an example of shanzhai, as the similarities to “Cloud Gate” are glaring. Still, if there was one way to make the Chicago sculpture more popular, turning its cavernous interior into a rave-like light show was probably the way to go.
Update: After learning of the existence of “Big Oil Bubble,” Anish Kapoor has made a statement denouncing it and threatening to sue.
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Good artists borrow, great artists steal, non-artists replicate.
O plágio nas artes plásticas não é fácil de comprovar, mas nesse caso está claro. Desenvolvemos um trabalho de artes plásticas aqui no Brasil, e focamos na temática ambiental, temos um projeto intitulado A NATUREZA EM ONDAS DE LUZ. No ano de 2.000 propusemos uma mega escultura intitulada ÁRVORE DA VIDA, uma reconstituição de uma árvore já morta da Amazônia com materiais reciclados e vários outros recursos, incluindo 1500 lâmpadas estroboscópicas na composição. O projeto foi levado à Europa para tentarmos viabilizar na Alemanha e depois também foi encaminhado como proposta para a Expo 2000 em Hanover, que discutia o futuro do planeta e o destino da humanidade. Mas a obra não foi realizada. Anos depois a Torre Eiffel aparece com o mesmo efeito proposto, das estroboscópicas incorporadas na torre. Outra situação foi de obras muito parecidas às nossas nas saídas do metrô de Paris. O nosso trabalho e proposta nasceu em 1995 e é original. Podem ser vistas algumas obras emwww.wavesoflight.com.br
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