Can Magical ‘Unicorn’ Paint Defeat Anish Kapoor Once and for All? Art-Supply Wizard Stuart Semple Hopes So

Stuart Semple's color-changing paint is just the latest salvo in the bizarre art feud.

Stuart Semple's color-changing Phase and Shift paints in action. Courtesy of Stuart Semple.
Stuart Semple's color-changing Phaze and Shift paints in action. Courtesy of Stuart Semple.

It turns out artist Stuart Semple isn’t the only one with a problem with world-famous artist Anish Kapoor. Residents of Camberwell, London, are up in arms over the Kapoor’s plans to add a new floor to his studio there, potentially limiting the light in neighboring homes. The locals have called on Semple to join their efforts to stymie the construction plans, and he has willingly obliged, offering color-changing “unicorn” paint as the latest in his line of art supplies banning Kapoor from their use.

“You’d think Anish Kapoor would understand the value of light, color, and social responsibility,” reads a Change.org petition aiming to prevent the planned addition. Titled “Stop Anish Kapoor stealing our light and color!” it currently has just 272 signatures.

Stuart Semple, color-changing Phase paint. Courtesy of Stuart Semple.

Stuart Semple, color-changing Phaze paint. Courtesy of Stuart Semple.

Semple, of course, has long criticized Kapoor for keeping the color Vantablack from other artists. In retaliation, he has unveiled his own line of art supplies that anyone other than Kapoor is welcome to use. There’s Diamond Dust, supposedly the world’s most glittery glitter, and Black 2.0, a cherry-scented alternative to Vantablack advertised as “the world’s mattest, flattest, black art material.” (He enlisted feedback from 1,000 artists all over the world to help improve the original Black 1.0.)

In December, Kapoor’s dealer, Lisson Gallery, managed to get their hands on Semple’s Pinkest Pink, which you can buy in a four-pack set with Yellowest Yellow, Greenest Green, and Loveliest Blue. Firing back, Kapoor Instagrammed a photo of his middle finger dipped in the vibrant powder.

The two new “unicorn” additions to Semple’s collection are called Shift, which is applied over Semple’s Blackest Black to form an iridescent, multi-colored sheen, and Phaze, which creates a blend of Pinkest Pink and Semple’s Haze shade of purple that changes with the temperature.

The secret behind Phaze’s magical color-changing properties is Chiral Nematic liquid crystal, described by Semple as a “living substance, more expensive than gold.” It is sold in a bottle of rainbow liquid and allegedly needs to be stored in the fridge and periodically shaken to keep it alive.

So far, its creator has been pleased with the public response to his superlative art supply offerings.

Stuart Semple, color-changing Shift paint. Courtesy of Stuart Semple.

Stuart Semple, color-changing Shift paint. Courtesy of Stuart Semple.

“Every time I see a new piece of work on the #sharetheblack hashtag I feel so excited, and I know that it proves to Kapoor and the creators of Vantablack that color hoarding and robbing are wrong,” Semple told Creators, calling Shift and Phaze the “final blow in [the] Anish Kapoor art war.”

For his part, Kapoor maintains that Vantablack was not developed for artistic use and that he has been working closely with its creators, Surrey NanoSystems, to adapt the new material. By his reckoning, letting other artists use Vantablack is akin to a fabricator copying a design they were hired to produce for one artist.

Other artists had expressed interest in Vantablack, but Kapoor won out. “Because we didn’t have the bandwidth to work with more than one—we’re an engineering company—we decided Anish would be perfect,” Ben Jensen, the CTO at Surrey NanoSystems, told Wired. “His life’s work had revolved around light reflection and voids.”

Neither the artist nor the company had any idea how contentious their exclusive arrangement would become. In December, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that Kapoor was considering suing Semple, saying “this product is using Anish Kapoor’s name as a promotion tool. We have now put this matter to our lawyers who will take appropriate action.”

As for his construction application, the Turner Prize-winning artist wrote that the additional floor in his studio is needed to “expand the applicants’ capacity to produce work.”

Neighbors are unconvinced. “It will make [my flat] so dark and be so domineering that it will feel like we’re living in a prison,” complained one resident of Kapoor’s planned building to the Evening Standard. It remains to be seen if Semple’s support will help their cause.

Meanwhile, as always, buying one of Semple’s products comes with the following fine print: “By adding this product to your cart you confirm that 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. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this material will not make it’s [sic] way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.”


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