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Why Renowned Sculptor Anish Kapoor is Suing the NRA

The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms control

Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2004, installation view, Millennium Park, Chicago. Courtesy: Anish Kapoor, All rights reserved, 2018; photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka

Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2004, installation view, Millennium Park, Chicago. Courtesy: Anish Kapoor, All rights reserved, 2018; photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka

Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2004, installation view, Millennium Park, Chicago. Courtesy: Anish Kapoor, All rights reserved, 2018; photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka

The celebrated British artist Anish Kapoor is suing the National Rifle Association of America for copyright infringement. Kapoor is contesting the NRA’s use, without permission, of his Chicago sculpture Cloud Gate, in a 2017 promotional video.

The copyright infringement lawsuit follows on from the artist’s open letter in March which condemned the NRA’s ‘nightmarish, intolerant, divisive vision’. The gun advocacy group’s video advertisement, titled ‘The Clenched Fist of Truth’ and released last year, warns of liberal America’s threat to freedom, and contains a brief shot of Kapoor’s sculpture.

The artist said that the NRA’s worldview ‘seeks to whip up fear and hate.’ His open letter was released shortly after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which has put issues of gun violence and arms control firmly back in the national conversation.

The NRA video included Kapoor’s sculpture alongside other pieces of American architecture including Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall and Renzo Piano’s New York Times headquarters. Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Hawthorne argued last year that these were veiled visual references to Jewish people, or those born outside of the US. Kapoor, in his open letter, wrote that the NRA ‘in its nationalist rhetoric uses Cloud Gate to suggest that these ideas constitute a ‘foreign object’ in our midst.’

Anish Kapoor. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Jillian Edelstein

Anish Kapoor. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Jillian Edelstein

Anish Kapoor. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Jillian Edelstein

Kapoor holds rights over images of the sculpture being used commercially – visitors can take photographs for free, but those seeking to use if for commercial gain must request permission. Kapoor said this was not sought by the NRA, nor consented to. His lawsuit was filed on Tuesday 19 June with the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The artist is seeking compensatory damages and USD$150,000 for each instance of infringement.

The artist commented: ‘Since publishing my feelings about the NRA’s unathorized use of my work Cloud Gate in their publicity video, I have been overwhelmed and moved by the support of so many people who, like me, are appalled by the NRA’s divisive and hate-filled campaign against the democratic and humane values of the people of America.’ 

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