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Share the Black

Colors are important to an artist. This is why new colors are constantly created and experimented with. A single color can provoke the emotions an artist wants to display to the audience. This is how the American conceptualist Robert Ryman was able to sell a canvas with only white paint for fifteen million dollars. A similar painting by Ryman was sold for $5.2 million. The importance of the painting was not the detail but how it made the viewer feel. The idea was created in 1918 by the philosopher Kazimir Malevich with his creation of “Suprematist Composition: White on White.”

Vantablack is the darkest black material that has ever been created absorbing 99.96 percent of light. When an object is covered in vantablack, it will appear two dimensional. If the color is applied to a piece of wrinkled aluminum foil, the surface will look flat no matter how closely you look at the material.

The deep black color comes about when the material absorbs light that is never released. The material itself is made of vertical tubes that entrap light, which then bounces off the inside of the tube until it eventually becomes heat. This color was created by the high-tech company Surrey NanoSystems, using carbon nanotubes which are 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. The material was originally used to to cover military planes and scientific instruments, as the color made it difficult for observers to detect the objects.

Recently, the sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor bought the rights to use this material, so that only he may use it. As an artist, he explores the dimensions of space so vantablack is a perfect fit. A debate now rages around the idea that one artist might monopolize the color.

Criticism started when Christian Furr of the Daily Mail reported “I’ve never hear of an artist monopolising a material... It isn’t right that it belongs to one man.”

Black is an important color in the artistic world, and the monopolization of the rights to the color strongly impairs the creativity of others. Kapoor is not convinced by this argument and still refuses to share the rights to it. This dispute led to the appearance of the hashtag #sharetheblack.

In response, British artist Stuart Semple created the “the world’s pinkest pink” and decided to sell it only at production cost. He opened the rights to use the color to all but Sir Anish Kapoor. When purchasing the color, one must sign the following statement: “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.”

Despite these efforts, Kapoor still got his hands on Semple’s color and posted an Instagram picture of his middle finger dipped in it. He captioned the post “Up yours #pink.” Semple then proceeded to create the “world’s most glittery glitter,” the “world’s greenest green” and the “world’s yellowest yellow” and applied the same rule. The artist also retaliated on Instagram; he obtained a dark black paint, dipped two fingers in the liquid and waved a peace sign around in a loop. The creator of vantablack claims it could not have been his product because the pigment must be applied at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Semple also posted a video of himself writing on a blackboard with white chalk “I will be good. I will share my colours.” He captioned the video “100 lines! ‘I will be good. I will share my colours’ #sharetheblack.”

This debate is still not resolved. Neither party wants to give up their rights to their colors. Semple is working on a black that will supposedly be darker than vantablack. Kapoor will not be allowed to use this new color because he refuses to meet Semple’s demands to either give up his sole rights to vantablack or write “I will be good. I will share my colours” one hundred times.

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