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Anish Kapoor Gets Exclusive Rights to the World’s Darkest Pigment

Aluminium foil coated in Vantablack image via Wikipedia

Aluminium foil coated in Vantablack (all images via Wikipedia)

Anish Kapoor now owns the exclusive rights to the world’s darkest material — a claim that, naturally, is pissing off other artists. The pigment is the very sexy Vantablack, known as the blackest black out there — much blacker than a panther swimming in a tarpit, the Ayam Cemami, or your wardrobe during your middle school goth phase. A substance developed by scientists at Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, Vantablack essentially absorbs all light — 99.965% of radiation, to be exact; even when painted on a textured and shiny surface such as aluminum, it creates an abyss free of creases that many have compared to a black hole.

Vantablack click to enlarge

Vantablack (click to enlarge)

Kapoor had announced his intentions to use the substance shortly after its creation, but he evidently felt he had to do more and claim it as his own, in the process barring others from using it. According to the Daily Mail, the artist Christian Furr — largely known for being the youngest artist to paint the Queen of England — had intended to use the pigment in a series of paintings and has expressed his outrage at being restricted to using less intense blacks.

“I’ve never heard of an artist monopolizing a material,” Furr told the Daily Mail. “Using pure black in an artwork grounds it.

“All the best artists have had a thing for pure black – Turner, Manet, Goya,” he said. “This black is like dynamite in the art world. We should be able to use it. It isn’t right that it belongs to one man.”

Kapoor often plays with how we perceive the materiality of objects and has noted that his affinity for the world’s darkest material stems from its ability to disorient viewers.

“The nanostructure of Vantablack is so small that it virtually has no materiality,” he toldArtforum. “It’s thinner than a coat of paint and rests on the liminal edge between an imagined thing and an actual one. It’s a physical thing that you cannot see, giving it a transcendent or even transcendental dimension, which I think is very compelling.”

Researchers over at Surrey NanoSystem are evidently big fans of Kapoor’s work; the company’s founder and chief technology officer, Ben Jensen, described his art as “infectious.”

“He has an amazing ability to see things that other people don’t and he’s famous for his work in reflections and voids,” Jensen told the New York Times in 2014. “We never imagined we would be involved in something like that, but his ideas are infectious, and my research scientists love that their work could be used this way.”

Any artists tempted to use the pigment anyway should be wary of the consequences: if news reaches Kapoor that someone is treading on his artistic territory, it would not be out of character for him to swiftly threaten to sue the offender.



  • Carderites

    Oh dear! How tedious.


  • Enjoyed reading this.  It is very timely and ties in with the research and experimenting that I am doing lately on this subject. :)
  • Thinking a bit more about this- wouldn't Vantablack only be good for painting(realism) something that was already painted  Vantablack, given its the world's darkest material
  • SummerSummer -
    edited March 2016
    Boudicca said:
    Thinking a bit more about this- wouldn't Vantablack only be good for painting(realism) something that was already painted  Vantablack, given its the world's darkest material
    If I'm understanding your question correctly, the blacks we have are adequate already--most of the time, but not always.  I believe I remember Mark saying that there are darker blacks in nature than there are in paint and that the same goes for white.  Vantablack would fill this gap.  By how much, I don't know yet.  I just hope that it will become available in my lifetime.   :)
  • Oh it just struck me as funny/odd, but I guess what I was alluding to was that if you are painting realism and Vantablack is the darkest material in the world- thereby meaning nothing else in the world is THIS black, then the only time you would need Vantablack would be to paint something that was already painted  Vantablack. Maybe we can expect a whole lot of paintings by Kapoor of items painted Vantablack (except his main gig is sculpture) lol. I'm just talking realism, I expect there would be many ways to use this artistically. Kapoor being known for his highly reflective large sculpture works seems to want to go in the opposite direction- and stop anyone else from doing so.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited March 2016
    I see what you mean now.  For realist painters, there would be no need for Vantablack unless the subject was Vantablack.  Using Vantablack for creative purposes would be for just that.  I'm already thinking about using it on some of my sculptures and how it can be used on furniture and wall murals.  Hmm.  :)
  • edward said:
    Maybe they should call it Spinal Tap Black, has a certain ring to it I think  :p
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