Thursday, August 13, 2015

Talk about coincidences!

Anish Kapoor says he was inspired by a blob of mercury. 

Dear China:
     As an official representative of Chicago's Media Elite, let me say this: You may have our Bean.
     Which isn't as generous as it sounds, as China, true to form, has already taken it. Or at least a smaller version of it.
     A reproduction, more or less, of the sculpture that has graced Chicago's Millennium Park since 2006 will be unveiled soon in Karamay, a city of 300,000 in China's northern region.
     The Chinese, with typical brio, pretend to have cooked up the idea themselves, an echo of the old Soviet claims of inventing the telephone. The People's Daily crowed about their new “stainless steel sculpture in the shape of an oil bubble." Karamay is a center of oil production.
China says they weren't inspired by our Bean.
   Its name, in English, will be "Big Oil Bubble," but it's only a matter of time until they start calling it "Dou," or Chinese for "Bean."

     Anish Kapoor, the British-Indian artist who created Chicago's "Cloud Gate," as nobody calls it, has expressed outrage at the "blatant plagiarism."
     “The Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement," he said.
     Now that's funny — the naivete of artists. The Chinese authorities haven't stopped the blatant infringement to the tune of billions of dollars of intellectual theft of CDs, DVDs, computer programs, designer handbags, you name it. The odds of them starting now — "Oh gosh, Comrade, Anish Kapoor is threatening to sue us! Tear Great Oil Bubble down immediately!" — are zero.
     I would encourage Kapoor to chill out regarding both the Chinese homage to his work and the Chicago name. Kapoor has been complaining privately that he is not fond of the Bean nickname.
     Two things to keep in mind.
     First, as the owner of a $3 Rolex, which my older boy bought for me during his school jaunt through China, I would observe that these Chinese knockoffs suffer considerably in quality. The Big Oil Bubble is far smaller than our Bean — you can't walk under it — and is strung with red Christmas lights, a grace note of aesthetic wrongness that reminded me of the dinner I had at the Chinese consulate here where they balanced a single Pringle's potato chip on the salad plate as a garnish.
     I don't imagine that the reflection on the Chinese sculpture is painted on, like the smaller dials of my watch. But I would bet it isn't constructed with the solid American craftsmanship that made the Bean. A few seasons in the polluted air of China's chief petroleum producing district and the Chinese Bean will be as reflective as a coffee bean and approaching the same color.
     Second, even if through some miracle of Communist engineering the Bubble/Bean's reflective qualities don't wash away in the acid rain, remember this: the glory of our Chicago bean is that it's reflecting us here, our people and our visitors and the city surrounding us. I haven't been to Karamay and I hope to never go. But Chicago it ain't.
     We're always aspiring to be a "world-class city," right? Well, part of that is having your glories ripped off by lesser cities. Suck it up. Do you think that Paris loses sleep because they built a mini Eiffel Tower in Vegas? I doubt it. These things happen. We can't condemn the Chinese for something we do ourselves. I have not done the research, but I would be very surprised if Pisa, Italy, registered displeasure when the Leaning Tower of Niles went up in 1934 — a rip-off if ever there were. And heck, consider the Great Oil Bubble of China another Chicago trade representative. Some number of Chinese, having gazed at themselves long enough in their version of the Bean, might decide to spend some of their petrodollars to come here to see the real thing.


  1. There are multiple copies of the Masonic Temple Building that was at Washington & State [torn down in the Great Depression] all over the world, including one here on LaSalle St.
    There is at least one ripoff in Japan of the First National Bank Building [or whatever its current name is] at Madison Dearborn.
    But copying a famous public art work appears to be something fairly new.
    And Kapoor is an asshole for disliking the name The Bean.
    That nickname makes far more sense than the pretentious bullshit name he gave it!

  2. There is a downside to the copy culture in China. Software engineering in China consists of learning how to hack and crack. Cracking consists of knowing enough computer programming to reverse engineer the copy protection on a software package. You will only sell one copy of a program you developed to China. It will then get distributed nationwide, for a few dollars more then the cost of the disk the application is stored on. The downside for China is they have no software companies. Anything a Chinese company creates will get copied, and they don't receive royalties, thus no profit. If the government prohibits the copying of Chinese created software, they would then be competing against the virtually free Western products, widely available.

  3. Good info, Bernie.

    Clark St., yes, many in the art world are overly pretentious.

  4. Anish Kapoor is upset. Shocking, truly. But will Chinese authorities hassle people taking photos of their Bean clone with SLR cameras as was once done with our original, screaming "Copyright!!1!!!" 😂

  5. I call it the Blob and I'm amazed anyone would want to copy this overpriced, three-dimensional mirror.

  6. Given the alternatives when it comes to public art in Chicago, I'd have to say that the Bean is a winner, myself, Wendy. As fun as it is for everybody to stand under it, and take their dozens of selfies around it, I believe I like it best, at this point, when I see it from one of the high-rises across the street and it really does look like a not-that-huge shiny silver bean plopped down in the midst of its surroundings.

    I was all set to agree with NS about this one. If they want to create a second-rate copy of, ahem, Cloud Gate, so what? It just reflects more glory on the original, and further demonstrates what a swell idea it was. Upon further review, though, I CAN see Kapoor's point. If they wanted a thinly-disguised knock-off of the Bean for their oil-rich city, they could have commissioned HIM to create it. And, one would assume, PAID him handsomely. The "Big Oil Bubble", in addition to being an homage to his work, denied him a potential project.

    NS, if somebody were to translate all your books into Chinese without involving you at all, and the works (because the Chinese have excellent taste, natch) sold well, would your attitude be "Great -- my work is being appreciated by a whole other audience that never would have seen it; way to go, comrades" or "Hey, that's MY stuff, where's MY cut?"

    Still, with regard to the attendant publicity, I'd think it would have behooved Kapoor to be magnanimous about this, rather than suing.

  7. viewed from "the high rises across the street" ???

    must be nice

    good point about what if they stole printed work

    1. It's not like I'm some swell living in a 5-million-dollar penthouse, there, Anon. For example, the new hotel in the old Chicago Athletic Association building offers fine views, and one doesn't need to be staying there, or even dining there, to see them. During "Open House Chicago" in October, which is free to all and conducted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, one can visit offices in some of those buildings. Heck, you can even view the Bean from the Cultural Center, also free, though that's obviously not a high-rise.

    2. That's better.

  8. Don't care for the Chinese practices, but Kapoor is an arrogant prick.

    We could have done better as far as an art piece in that downtown area.

    Artists need to go more neo-classical-not so much with the abstract art style.

    1. In all honesty, I think we'd have been hard-pressed to do better than that piece, whatever one thinks of the sculptor. There is a neo-classical Peristyle about a block away for folks such as yourself to enjoy. I certainly wasn't wild about the cost, but I have to concede that Millennium Park features a nice assortment of artistic elements. And I'm no fan of abstract art, generally.

  9. I've always thought that the Bean was a fun, cool sculpture, not everything needs to be so serious. The Big Oil Bubble is similar, but I do see a lot of differences. It has more "feet" on the base and the surface is wavy to name a couple. I hate to be the one to point this out, but people can walk under it, and those are color changing LED lights that do a lightning like show. Still tacky, but not red Christmas lights.

  10. The Bean beats the heck out of that Dubuffet monstrosity outside of the Thompson Center, that's for sure. I can get used to almost anything, but that still offends the eye.

    1. Hate the Dubuffet. I could push the plunger to dynamite it and never bat an eye.

    2. That's hardly a favorite of mine, but I surely don't hate it the way you two and many others seem to. But if you dynamited it, how would you even be able to tell? I'm just disappointed that you didn't take this golden opportunity to employ the swell nickname for it, "Snoopy in a Blender." : )

    3. I'm not a big fan of the building, either.

  11. The artist of the Bean has his opinion in the reader feedback on Fri. the 14th and he's not too happy with the mayor.

    1. While I think Kapoor has a legitimate gripe about this "plagiarism", from his perspective, it doesn't seem to me that his campaign to involve the mayor makes much sense. I agree with NS that there's really no downside to this act of copycatting from our fair city's perspective. If there's any effect at all, MORE people will probably want to see the Bean because of it.


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