Anish Kapoor’s 2006 sculpture Cloud Gate, a stainless steel, bean-shaped public work located in Chicago, looks suspiciously similar to a sculpture going up in Karamay, a city in northwestern China, a fact that has not escaped the artist. In a statement, a shocked Kapoor had this to say:
“It seems that in China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of others. I feel I must take this to the highest level and pursue those responsible in the courts. I hope that the Mayor of Chicago will join me in this action. The Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement and allow the full enforcement of copyright.”
Chicago’s mayor, Rahmn Emanuel, jumped in earlier today and was uncharacteristically mellow about the whole thing. According to the Sun-Times, he said, “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, is what I would say. And if you want to see original artwork like this or like the Bean, you come to Chicago.”
Kapoor isn’t exaggerating about China’s lax attitude towards plagiarism. A BBC article explains that “piracy of goods, brands, and copyrighted materials is so rife in China that there is a word for the results—shan zhai, a term originally used to describe a bandit stronghold outside government control.”
The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog reports that the head of Karamay’s Tourism Bureau, Ma Jun, admitted that while he had heard of Kapoor, any similarities between the two sculptures are merely the result of a coincidence. He also refused to name the artist responsible, saying only that the person is Chinese.
“The idea of the oil bubble comes from the Black Oil Mountain, which is a natural oil well in Karamay,” Ma told China Real Time, adding in all seriousness, “You can’t say we’re not allowed to build a round sculpture because there already is a round one.”
Ma also pointed out that while Oil Bubble (a working title, courtesy of me) reflects the ground, Cloud Gate is intended to reflect the sky. “That’s why we used granite to imitate oil waves (in the area surrounding the sculpture),” he told China Real Time. This claim, at least, can easily be disproven.