An Artist Feud Over the Blackest Paint Ever

Recently I saw a story about the most magnificently petty artists’ feud and it was just the best thing ever. I say it was the best thing ever because, as an artist, I found myself unreservedly siding with one of the two artists in this particular feud. And I’m not alone. The response from the art world has been overwhelmingly in favor of the underdog in the story.

Here is an abridged version of the disagreement:

Artist #1: Anish Kapoor

Kapoor is a very famous, extremely talented, absurdly wealthy artist. He has many exhibits and sculptures that are well-known, including the iconic “Cloud Gate” (a.k.a. “The Bean”) in Chicago.

In 2016 Kapoor purchased the exclusive rights to a lab-created material known as Vantablack — the darkest synthetic substance in the world. It absorbs 99.965% of visible light. When applied to a surface as a paint, it essentially creates a void. It is utter blackness.

Kapoor decided that it would be in his best interest to maintain and enforce his exclusivity to Vantablack. He alone has access to it — something that infuriated many artists.

Artist #2: Stuart Semple

One of the artists incensed with the apparent greed of Kapoor was British painter Stuart Semple — a not-quite-as-famous, not-quite-as-wealthy, but inherently more generous, artist.

Semple has been creating his own pigments for years and he shares them with any artist who wants to give them a try. Any artist, that is, except for Anish Kapoor.

In response to Kapoor’s unwillingness to share Vantablack with anyone, Semple created The World’s Pinkest Pink powder and began selling it to anyone, except Anish Kapoor. In fact, if someone wants to buy The World’s Pinkest Pink, they can pay a modest $5.99 for 50 grams as long as they agree to the fine print:

*Note: 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 paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor. 

The disclaimer and the popularity of The World’s Pinkest Pink may have been an ego-bruiser because, despite the steps Semple took to prevent his creation ending up in the hands of his nemesis, Kapoor posted this to his Instagram feed:

Undeterred by his rival’s unsubtle gesture, Semple continued to create materials for artists around the world, including Diamond Dust (The World’s Most Glittery Glitter) which is glitter made from glass flakes rather than the standard micro-plastic particles — not something you want to cram your middle finger into, no matter what bitter message you’re trying to send.

Black 3.0 – The Blackest Black

Perhaps most important in his lineup of the artiest art supplies, Semple created Black 3.0 (The Blackest Black Paint in the World). This non-toxic acrylic paint absorbs up to 99% of visible light and contends with Vantablack for darkness. Unlike Vantablack, Semple’s Black 3.0 is affordable and available to anyone who isn’t Anish Kapoor.

credit: Artist Stuart Semple

And since I am not Anish Kapoor, I bought a 150 ml bottle of Black 3.0.

I bought Black 3.0 for a few reasons:

  • For what it is and what it can produce, this is really affordable paint!
  • I am an artist and this kind of thing is my geeky happy place
  • I really want to support an artist whose platform is all about supporting fellow artists

Black 3.0 vs. Black Acrylic Craft Paint

To get a true feel of how Black 3.0 stacks up against other black paints, I used it and another acrylic paint simultaneously.

Artist Stuart Semple Blk 3.0 paint versus black acrylic craft paint

I bought 2 identical terracotta pots. Then I painted one with Stuart Semple’s Black 3.0 and I painted the other with Apple Barrel matte black acrylic paint. I applied 3 coats of each.

It is important to note that I probably should have primed the pots before painting, because the material is a little porous. I knew that before beginning, but I was so excited to try it out, I skipped that step. Had I applied a primer, I may have gotten a darker result.

Still, the difference in darkness is obvious. If I didn’t know better, I might think the Apple Barrel acrylic was actually a gray or chalkboard paint.

I’m excited to try it out on something else now!

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