It is often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. However, Anish Kapoor, the renowned Indian-British artist behind the world famous sculpture ‘Cloud Gate’ does not feel that way. The ‘Cloud Gate’ sculpture has become an iconic fixture in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Lovingly nicknamed ‘The Bean’ for its similar shape, the curved stainless sculpture is a favorite among locals and tourists alike for its unique design. Though recently, a new sculpture has been created in China which bears a striking resemblance.
In the western Xinjiang region, near the oil mining town of Karamay, the new sculpture is set to be opened to the public later this month. According to the Chinese state-run media, the sculpture has been under construction since 2013. Ma Jun, who is the planning and construction management section chief of Karamay’s Tourism Bureau states that the similarity between the two stainless steel sculptures is purely coincidental and the new piece looks like an oil bubble. “The idea of the oil bubble comes from the Black Oil Mountain, which is a natural oil well in Karamay,” Ma Jun said. “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).”
While the size and scope of the Chinese sculpture is much larger, it does seem to share many similarities to the one in Chicago. Though, in its defense, the Karamay sculpture does have additional base legs, and a much larger space underneath for tourists to walk through. The surrounding area also contains several other smaller stainless steel sculptures which seem to represent oil bubbles much more closely, as they look to be more spherical. As well, the Karamay sculpture is centered on the location of the first oil well in the town, so the local cultural significance relating to the oil-well is very strong.
In my opinion, I think there is room in the world for both sculptures. I may be biased in this regard, but curved stainless steel has a very appealing quality, especially when polished. The Millennium Park sculpture opens up the sky with its mirror-polished, curved stainless exterior, inviting viewers to take in a unique view of the iconic skyline of Chicago. While the main Karamay sculpture and its surrounding bubbles seem to have a less polished curved stainless exterior, adding to the interpretation of the reflection one could see in an oily sheen.