Despite the countless hours spent in art history lectures, researching art business models, or reading about contemporary art practices, I did not realize the prevalence of artists trademarking their materials. When I began cataloging this Henri Iglesis' sculpture (Petit Bonhomme Rouge) in a private collection, I was intrigued by his unique medium and it got me thinking...
In the 1960's, French artist Yves Klein formulated his own "blue" (International Klein Blue or IKB), but the patent he received was only for the process he used in making the pigment. Essentially, if you could create the same pigment, you could use it, but you couldn't use his formula.
Many have been outraged that Anish Kapoor was given exclusive (artistic) rights to Vantablack earlier this year. This black "material" is said to be the blackest-black, absorbing less than 0.04% of light.
Henri Iglesis' was a professional welder for almost 30 years until he decided to live as a full-time artist. He trademarked, blown and lacquered sheet metal (tôle soufflée) that he now uses to create whimsical sculptures.
In these three examples, Kapoor is the only artist getting backlash, but what has he done wrong? If anything, other artists should be upset with Surry NanoSystems, who's scientists invented the material. Kapoor jumped at an opportunity that, if given the chance, any other artist would have taken.
Artists are continuously reinventing the wheel, making it better, pushing the limits. It seems odd to be upset at an artist for inventing, trademarking, or owning something that is part of their process as an artist. A chef, chemist, software engineer... would never think twice about gaining exclusive rights, a patent, trademark, or copyright to something in their industries. Why not in the art industry? Interestingly enough, I cannot find scholarly literature discussing this topic.