A ‘Cloud Gate’ in China? Xinjiang Sculpture Resembles Chicago ‘Bean’
(This story has been updated to include comment from artist Anish Kapoor)
Hot on the heels of a dust-up over its Winter Olympic anthem, China appears to have another intellectual property debate on its hands – this time over a sculpture in the far-western Xinjiang region that bears an uncanny resemblance to Chicago’s famous “Cloud Gate.”
The sculpture in the Xinjiang oil town of Karamay was reported this week in China’s state-run media and will be open to the public later this month. It has been under construction since 2013, according to the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.
In a statement, Anish Kapoor, the Indian-British artist who designed Chicago’s “Cloud Gate,” said that he plans to take legal action against the creator of the Xinjiang lookalike.
“It seems that in China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of others,” Mr. Kapoor said. “I feel I must take this to the highest level and pursue those responsible in the courts.”
“I hope that the Mayor of Chicago will join me in this action,” he added. “The Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement and allow the full enforcement of copyright.”
On China’s Weibo microblogs, photos of the Karamay sculpture drew a swift reaction from users who said the similarities were too obvious to miss.
“It looks almost the same as Chicago’s ‘Cloud Gate!’ I remember it appeared in the movie ‘Source Code’,” one user wrote Wednesday.
“It’s such an obvious copy. Our designers are embarrassing us; our shanzhai speed is really quick,” wrote another, using a Chinese slang word used to describe knockoff products.
Ma Jun, the planning and construction-management section chief of Karamay’s Tourism Bureau, declined to reveal the name of the sculpture’s creator, saying only that the artist is Chinese.
In a phone interview with China Real Time, Mr. Ma also said that while he had heard of “Cloud Gate,” any similarity between the two stainless-steel works is purely a coincidence – and that the Karamay sculpture “looks like an oil bubble,” whereas the Chicago landmark “has a bean shape.”
“The idea of the oil bubble comes from the Black Oil Mountain, which is a natural oil well in Karamay,” Mr. Ma said Wednesday. “People can enter the big bubble to visit and hold activities. There are some small bubbles around to make it more fun.”
“You can’t say we’re not allowed to build a round sculpture because there already is a round one,” he added. “While we use similar materials, the shapes and meanings are different. ‘Cloud Gate’ intends to reflect the sky, but ours reflects the ground; that’s why we used granite to imitate oil waves (in the area surrounding the sculpture).”
The 110-ton structure, which reflects the Windy City’s skyline, was opened to the public in 2006.