The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

China Now Has A Giant Knockoff Of The Bean Called 'Big Oil Bubble'

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Aug 12, 2015 2:51PM

Is it a bubble, a cloud, a bean or a big example of artistic copy-catting? Chinese newspapers are reporting that a new piece of public art is going up in Karamay, Xinjiang that looks suspiciously like Chicago's bean.

The bean, formally titled, "Cloud Gate," was created in Millennium Park by Indian-British artist Anish Kapoor in 2006, where it fast became one of the most iconic images of Chicago. It's shiny, round and oblong, kind of like a bean. So is Karamay's new sculpture. But according to the state-run newspaper People's Daily China, this one is named "Big Oil Bubble" and, understandably, it's meant to resemble a larger-than-life drop of oil to commemorate the site of the city's first oil well.

"Big Oil Bubble" has reportedly been under construction since 2013, but it was only widely unveiled last week. It is slated to be completed in the next month. Some Chinese writers were quick to label it a knockoff, with a nod at other examples of cultural and artistic appropriation to be found around the country.

Ma Jun, a Karamay tourism official, told the Wall Street Journal that the artist's name is a secret, but that the artist is Chinese. He disputed the apparent similarities between the oil bubble and our beloved Bean.

The Karamay sculpture, he said, "looks like an oil bubble," whereas the Bean looks, of course, "like a bean."

“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 Chinese sculpture has at least one feature that's very different from the Bean: In the hollow center area where viewers may walk underneath the sculpture, an array of LED lights that flash red and blue will play across the bubble's underbelly.