Sculptor of Chicago's "Bean" sues NRA, says needed permission to use image of the public art in video

By Scott Holland | Jun 20, 2018

By piet theisohn from Leverkusen, Germany (Cloud Gate ("The Bean") - Millenium Park) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The artist behind the iconic Chicago sculpture known to people worldwide as “The Bean,” is targeting the National Rifle Association in a copyright infringement lawsuit, saying they needed to ask his permission before using images including the sculpture in a video the organization posted to solicit donations.

Anish Kapoor created “Cloud Gate,” the Millennium Park sculpture known colloquially as “The Bean.” In a complaint filed June 19 in federal court in Chicago, he said the NRA used images of his sculpture in a video it published June 29, 2017, doing so without permission and further refusing his request to scrub those images from the video.

According to Kapoor, the ad in question is titled either “The Clenched First of Truth” or “The Violence of Lies.” He quoted the Washington Post, which said the ad was “designed to provoke fear, if not incite violence,” and the New York Times, which said the spot became “one of the latest flash points for partisan anger.”

Kapoor, according to the complaint, “was shocked and outraged to learn that his sculpture had been used by NRA to support its despicable platform of promoting violence, private ownership of all manner of firearms in the United States, including military assault weapons, and using its money and political power to block any kind of meaningful gun control.”


Anish Kapoor   By Bengt Oberger [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The complaint details the London artist’s career, noting he has been knighted and won awards such as the Turner Prize, the Preamium Imperiale and the Genesis Prize. He said he worked on “Cloud Gate” from 1999 to its 2006 installation in Millennium Park. The complaint also includes images from the NRA ad, including one of spokeswoman Dana Loesch and a black-and-white image of “Cloud Gate.”

The ad, according to Kapoor, “warns of civil unrest and violence, and states that the only way to save ‘our’ country from the ‘lies’ of the liberal media and the ‘liberal agenda’ is with the ‘clenched fist of truth,’ i.e., with guns (obviously referencing NRA’s previous slogan by Charlton Heston that ‘I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.’) It is a clear call to armed violence against liberals and the media” that ends by soliciting viewers to join the NRA.

Kapoor said he registered “Cloud Gate” with the U.S. Copyright Office on Jan. 4, 2016, and said he never granted the NRA the right to “reproduce, distribute, perform, create derivative works based on, or otherwise exploit all or any portion of ‘Cloud Gate.’ ” In addition to direct contact with the NRA on June 30, 2017, Kapoor also issued a “widely publicized” open letter on March 12, 2018, making “clear his extreme objection to such usage.”

In addition to a jury trial, Kapoor seeks statutory damages of $150,000 per willful infringement of his trademarked property as well as court orders preventing the NRA from future use of images of the sculpture. He also calls on the NRA to account for any profits attributable to the use of “Cloud Gate” in the ad and to pay him that money.

Representing Kapoor in the matter are lawyers from Phillips, Erlewine, Given & Carlin, LLP, of San Francisco; and Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP, of Chicago.

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City of Chicago Swanson, Martin and Bell, Llp U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Chicago Division

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