DAILY: Ownership…of an art material?

Maybe this response is a little late to the game, but a few days ago, Anish Kapoor received exclusive rights to Vantablack, which he began using in 2014. Created by NanoSystems, Vantablack isn’t exactly a pigment; it’s actually a material composed of microscopic tubes. Light is trapped and deflected between the tubes, with 99.96% getting absorbed.

NanoSystems is the inventor and owner of this product, and therefore, can do whatever they wish to do with it, but by-and-large, the response to the exclusivity deal has largely been negative, particularly by artists. Kapoor has been criticized for monopolizing the material. The word immoral was even tossed around. The product does require “specialist application,” and is subject to UK Export Control. That means lil ‘ol me probably couldn’t have gotten my hands on the product before Kapoor’s agreement anyway, nor would I actually be able to actually use the material effectively. And that’s likely true for most artists…so what’s the point here? Is Kapoor just being a control freak and flexing his art muscles, when few could compete with him for access to Vantablack anyway? Or, is competition in the upper echelon so brutal he is justified in attempting such an odd ownership? We’re torn, but honestly, it just seems weird, passive aggressive, unprecedented, and probably unnecessary, though not actually unethical.

 

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