Sir Anish Kapoor, the British-Indian sculptor of The Bean in Chicago and other major works, has acquired the exclusive rights to the blackest known black in existence.
Known as Vantablack, the pigment is so dark that it absorbs 99.965% of light. Meaning, the light isn’t reflected, thus it’s invisible to the eye. Even when a 3D object like crinkled aluminum foil is coated in the stuff, none of the peaks and valleys are visible.
The artist has been working and experimenting with Vantablack — originally developed by the UK’s National Physical Laboratory and subsequently manufactured by Surry NanoSystems to paint stealth fighter jets — since 2014. “It’s blacker than anything you can imagine,” he told BBC radio. “It’s so black you almost can’t see it. It has a kind of unreal quality.”
When asked about the possibility of a little Vantablack dress, the manufacturer’s chief technical officer Ben Jensen said it would be “very expensive” — he was not at liberty to reveal the cost of the material. “You would lose all features of the dress. It would just be something black passing through.”
Technically, Vantablack is not a color, but an invented substance (microscopic tubes, each one 10,000 times thinner than a human hair), making it protectable property. But that isn’t stopping other artists from expressing frustration that they cannot use Vantablack.
The backlash calls to mind the legal tangle between Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent over the former’s signature use of red soles. And back in 1960, Yves Klein obtained a patent on International Klein Blue.