The British artist Anish Kapoor has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the National Rifle Association of America, citing copyright infringement over the gun rights organization’s inclusion of an image of his 2006 sculpture Cloud Gate, known colloquially as the Bean and located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, in an advertisement put online last year.
The suit, which calls for a jury trial, seeks $150,000 per infringement, with “the number of infringements to be determined according to proof” presented in court. It demands that the NRA pay for Kapoor’s legal fees and return any profits gained from the use of an image of Cloud Gate, which the artist registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in January 2016.
Kapoor’s complaint addresses an NRA video advertisement that was first released in 2017 and was used to solicit donations for the organization. That video, titled The Clenched Fist of Truth, attacks the mainstream media through rhetoric as black-and-white images of protests and several recognizable landmarks, among them Cloud Gate, flash on screen. The video, which asks NRA supporters to “fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth,” ends with a text saying, “Join us today.”
In March, Kapoor released an open letter, written as a joint statement with the organization Everytown for Gun Safety, that decries the NRA’s use of a picture of Cloud Gate in a commercial as well as the organization’s practices in general. Kapoor wrote that the advertisement was being used “to whip up fear and hate.”
The video “plays to the basest and most primal impulses of paranoia, conflict and violence, and uses them in an effort to create a schism to justify its most regressive attitudes,” Kapoor wrote in the open letter. “Hidden here is a need to believe in a threatening ‘Other’ different from ourselves.” Kapoor’s missive was released less than a month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which many have attributed to pushing gun-control activism back into forefront of political conversations.
The complaint filed today notes that Kapoor has repeatedly asked the NRA to remove the image of his work from the video, both in his open letter and in additional correspondence allegedly sent to the organization, but that the NRA had “failed and refused to do so.” In a statement, Kapoor said that, since he published the open letter, he has “been overwhelmed and moved by the support of so many people who, like me, are appalled by the NRA’s divisive and hate-filled campaign against the democratic and humane values of the people of America. In light of this solidarity and support I am encouraged to confront this organization and hold it to account for its blatant copyright infringement.”
He continued, “These sadly are times in which it is urgent for us all, in whatever way we can, to stand up to the dark and aggressive forces in society that seek, out of fear and hatred, to lead us backward into a primitive, paranoid, and defensive worldview.”