A 'Cloud Gate' to China?

John Hill
13. August 2015
"Oil Bubbles" by unknown artist (Photo: Zhou Jianling)

A stainless steel sculpture nearing completion in China's Xianjing region bears a striking resemblance to Anish Kapoor's famous Cloud Gate sculpture installed in Chicago's Millennium Park in 2006.

The resemblance is strong enough that Kapoor said in a statement, "It seems that in China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of others. I feel I must take this to the highest level and pursue those responsible in the courts. I hope that the Mayor of Chicago [Rahm Emanuel] will join me in this action. The Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement and allow the full enforcement of copyright."

According to Chinese media, the "stainless steel sculpture in the shape of an oil bubble will appear at the end of this month in Karamay ... It has been built since 2013 at the site of the first oil well in Karamay." Yet over at the Wall Street Journal, an employee of Karamay’s Tourism Bureau is quoted as saying the similarity is purely a coincidence, since their sculpture "looks like an oil bubble," but Kapoor's icon "has a bean shape." Further, the "Bean," as it's come to be known (officially it's named Cloud Gate), "intends to reflect the sky...":

"Cloud Gate" by Anish Kapoor (Photo: City of Chicago)

Whereas the "Oil Bubble," by an unknown Chinese artist, "reflects the ground; that’s why we used granite to imitate oil waves":

"Oil Bubbles" by unknown artist (Photo: Zhou Jianling)

Even though the formal resemblance is hard to deny, the craftsmanship that resulted in Cloud Gate's seamless polished surface is nowhere to be found in the Chinese mimicry, which is bumpy and lumpy. Perhaps this form and surface are intentional, but the attention coming from the news skews criticism toward these and other formal qualities relative to Kapoor's sculpture.

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