The NRA Used Anish Kapoor’s Most Famous Work in a Political Ad. Now the Artist Is Blasting Back.

The artist behind 'The Bean' stands off against the NRA's 'Clenched Fist of Truth.'

Anish Kapoor. Courtesy of Adam Berry/Getty Images.

Artist Anish Kapoor today blasted the National Rifle Association in an open letter in collaboration with the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. Specifically, he slammed the NRA for appropriating the image of his famed Chicago sculpture Cloud Gate, affectionately dubbed “The Bean,” that sits in Millennium Park, where it was installed in 2004.

Anish Kapoor Cloud Gate (2006). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Kapoor said the NRA used an image of the work—which shows the bean and a surrounding crowd in the plaza—without his consent in a “politicised advertisement” called the “The Clenched Fist of Truth.” In his letter, Kapoor says the ad “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.” The artist added that he was “disgusted” to see his work used by the NRA “to promote their vile message.”

In the wake of recent shootings in Florida, Las Vegas, and Texas, Kapoor said that it is “more urgent than ever that this organization is held to account for its ongoing campaign of fear and hate in American society.”

The advertisement in question is a one-minute video available on the NRA website, featuring national spokesperson Dana Loesch. As Loesch speaks, images flash across the screen in black-and-white showing crowds in time-lapsed movement. One of these is Kapoor’s ‘Cloud Gate’ with people shown in stop-motion moving around it. Another shows the Hollywood sign, as Loesch speaks about an unidentified “They,” who, she says, “use their media to assassinate real news,” “use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler,” “use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again,” and “use their ex-president to endorse the Resistance.”

Loesch ends by stating: “I’m the NRA,” and calling the gun lobbying organization “Freedom’s safest place.”

Kapoor begs to differ, writing that the NRA video “gives voice to xenophobic anxiety, and a further call to ‘arm’ the population against a fictional enemy.”

The complete letter is below:

Last year an image of my work Cloud Gate (in Millennium Park Chicago) was used without my consent in a politicised advertisement for the National Rifle Association (NRA), entitled The Clenched Fist of Truth. The NRA’s ‘advertisement’ -as they describe the video on their own website – seeks to whip up fear and hate. It 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. Hidden here is a need to believe in a threatening ‘Other’ different from ourselves. I am disgusted to see my work – in truth the sculpture of the people of Chicago – used by the NRA to promote their vile message. Recent shootings in Florida, Las Vegas, Texas, and a number of other towns and cities, make it more urgent than ever that this organization is held to account for its ongoing campaign of fear and hate in American society.

Cloud Gate reflects the space around it, the city of Chicago. People visit the sculpture to get married, to meet friends, to take selfies, to dance, to jump, to engage in communal experience. Its mirrored form is engulfing and intimate. It gathers the viewer into itself. This experience, judging by the number of people that visit it every day (two-hundred million to date), still seems to carry the potential to communicate a sense of wonder. A mirror of self and other, both private and collective, Cloud Gate – or the ‘Bean’ as it often affectionately referred to -is an inclusive work that engages public participation. Its success has little to do with me, but rather with the thousands of residents and visitors who have adopted it and embraced it as their ‘Bean’. Cloud Gate has become a democratic object in a space that is free and open to all.

In the NRA’s vile and dishonest video, Cloud Gate appears as part of a montage of iconic buildings that purport to represent ‘Liberal America’ in which the ‘public object’ is the focus of communal exchange. Art seeks new form, it is by its nature a dynamic force in society. The NRA in it’s nationalist rhetoric uses Cloud Gate to suggest that these ideas constitute a ‘foreign object’ in our midst. The NRA’s video gives voice to xenophobic anxiety, and a further call to ‘arm’ the population against a fictional enemy.

The NRA’s nightmarish, intolerant, divisive vision perverts everything that Cloud Gate – and America – stands for. Art must stand clear in its mission to recognise the dignity and humanity of all, irrespective of creed or racial origin.

Gun violence in the United States affects every citizen of your country-all religions, all cultures, all ages. The NRA’s continued defence of the gun industry makes them complicit in compromising the safety of the many in favour of corporate profit. I support Everytown for Gun Safety and their efforts to build safer communities for everyone across the United States.

Anish Kapoor

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