By now, you might have heard that Anish Kapoor is none too pleased with the NRA. Two days ago, Art Zealous received an email via Gladstone Gallery from Kapoor is protesting the NRA’s use of footage of his public artwork Cloud Gate, 2006, located in Chicago’s famous Millennium Park. The video in question features NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch. “The only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of [media] lies with the clenched fist of truth,” in the minute long video.
Kapoor’s letter comes two days before students on the East Coast began a national walkout Wednesday morning to urge elected officials take action on school gun violence, one month after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 people.
Kapoor states, “I am disgusted to see my work—in truth the sculpture of the people of Chicago—used by the NRA to promote their vile message. Recent shootings in Florida, Las Vegas, Texas, and a number of other towns and cities, make it more urgent than ever that this organization is held to account for its ongoing campaign of fear and hate in American society.”
The complete letter is below.
“Last year an image of my work Cloud Gate (in Millennium Park Chicago) was used without my consent in a politicised advertisement for the National Rifle Association (NRA), entitled The Clenched Fist of Truth. The NRA’s ‘advertisement’—as they describe the video on their own website—seeks to whip up fear and hate. It plays to the basest and most primal impulses of paranoia, conflict and violence, and uses them in an effort to create a schism to justify its most regressive attitudes. Hidden here is a need to believe in a threatening ‘Other’ different from ourselves. I am disgusted to see my work—in truth the sculpture of the people of Chicago—used by the NRA to promote their vile message. Recent shootings in Florida, Las Vegas, Texas, and a number of other towns and cities, make it more urgent than ever that this organization is held to account for its ongoing campaign of fear and hate in American society.
Cloud Gate reflects the space around it, the city of Chicago. People visit the sculpture to get married, to meet friends, to take selfies, to dance, to jump, to engage in communal experience. Its mirrored form is engulfing and intimate. It gathers the viewer into itself. This experience, judging by the number of people that visit it every day (two-hundred million to date), still seems to carry the potential to communicate a sense of wonder. A mirror of self and other, both private and collective, Cloud Gate—or the ‘Bean’ as it often affectionately referred to—is an inclusive work that engages public participation. Its success has little to do with me, but rather with the thousands of residents and visitors who have adopted it and embraced it as their ‘Bean’. Cloud Gate has become a democratic object in a space that is free and open to all.
In the NRA’s vile and dishonest video, Cloud Gate appears as part of a montage of iconic buildings that purport to represent ‘Liberal America’ in which the ‘public object’ is the focus of communal exchange. Art seeks new form, it is by its nature a dynamic force in society.
The NRA in its nationalist rhetoric uses Cloud Gate to suggest that these ideas constitute a ‘foreign object’ in our midst. The NRA’s video gives voice to xenophobic anxiety, and a further call to ‘arm’ the population against a fictional enemy. The NRA’s nightmarish, intolerant, divisive vision perverts everything that Cloud Gate—and America—stands for. Art must stand clear in its mission to recognise the dignity and humanity of all, irrespective of creedor racial origin.
Gun violence in the United States affects every citizen of your country—all religions, all cultures, all ages. The NRA’s continued defence of the gun industry makes them complicit in compromising the safety of the many in favour of corporate profit. I support Everytown for Gun Safety and their efforts to build safer communities for everyone across the United States.
Everytown for Gun Safety is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives. Learn more.
top image // Cloud Gate, Stainless steel, 10×20×12.8 m Millennium Park, Chicago