The Pursuit of an Artificial Perfection in Art

koons hanging heart The Pursuit of an Artificial Perfection in ArtIf I was to ask you what is it that makes an artwork so special, so intriguing and unique? I would expect that pretty much everyone would say the time, energy, spirit, expression and effort that the artist has put into the work. The reason that artworks are able to be so special, so unique, so diverse, so emotive, so communicative and so expressive is because they are the result of human activity. This human activity is so important to an artwork because it reflects the characteristics of human nature that include our ability to reason, to think abstractly and act independently along with the benefits of free will, which allow us to produce artworks with these characteristics.

Art is not only a form of communication but it is also a celebration of all the amazing human characteristics that I have mentioned above, and rightly so, yet there seems to be an emerging trend in the art world of artists pursuing a form of perfection that results in these characteristics being absent from many artworks. This pursuit of perfection is not an artist’s personal attempt to create what they would perceive as their ultimate artwork or the most artistically beautiful work, it is a pursuit of a manufactured perfection that is polished, sterile, clean, artificial, mechanical and void of any evidence of human involvement. The Chinese have a philosophy when it comes to art that the particular outward appearance of things, or indeed their accuracy, was of secondary importance to capturing the essence and spirit of the subject. Some Chinese artists even went to the extreme of deliberately including a small error in each of their works to emphasise the “human” nature of their artistic pursuits.

For example, Jeff Koon’s work “Hanging Heart”, which recently earnt Koons the title of the most expensive living artist, is basically a soul-less, sterile chromium and stainless steel object that took over 6000 man hours to manufacture by a stable of artists employed by Koons. “Hanging Heart” is one of five versions of the work that were executed by a German manufacturer to Koons’ specifications. So not only did Koons not actually create this artwork he actually employed a manufacturer to produce the artwork for him. If we want to buy something that is merely functional or decorative then we buy something that is mass produced by machines or labourers in a factory, which is how Koons’ “Hanging Heart” was produced. Because of these facts one can only come to the conclusion that “Hanging Heart” is in fact not an artwork but a decorative object. Koons hired someone to produce this artwork because he wanted it to be perfect yet by pursuing this form of perfection, Koons has stripped away the soul, energy and spirit that can only be transferred to an artwork by an artist if they are actually the ones physically creating the work.

If you remove the human element from an artwork you are left with an object that is void of energy and spirit, and these are two of the characteristics that give the viewer the ability to not only see the artwork but to experience the artwork and engage with the artwork. One of the most valuable traits of an artwork is an ability to connect with the viewer and evoke emotions, intrigue, debate, and yet with Koons’ work and similar works you view it once and there is no reason and no urge to return to view it again. For these reasons I would never invest in such a work, because it does not have the characteristics that include being thought provoking, emotive, energetic, spiritual, engaging, interactive etc. the things that cause viewers to assign value and express an appreciation for and opinion of the artwork.

 The Pursuit of an Artificial Perfection in Art**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

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  • tsigolohcysp

    I have just come across Kwoff and am really grateful as i’ve just decided to stop using digg. digg is great but it’s american and i wanted something more local. i doubted an australian version of digg would exist but then i was reading an article on news.com.au and it had a link to kwoff down the bottom.

    what better way than to start my participation here with an article on the arts, criticising the existence of perfection. it’s a nice little bit of serendipity because i’ve been looking for a good arts blog on the net and may have found it.

    i think what nicholas forrest is trying to say is that the ‘art’ in something is lost when it becomes perfect, or when it is manufactured. he seems to be saying that the human spirit (that art is so good for expressing) is obscured by perfection and the impersonal manufacturing process. his comments brought to mind a comparison between jeff koons’ heart and those packets of heart shaped christmas decorations one can purchase at cheap as chips, both produced via manufacturing plants.

    the degree of personalisation is higher in jeff’s ‘decoration’ though. let’s look at the ways he as a person is expressed in the heart. firstly, he has come up with the design, the colour, size, fancy motif at the top of it etc. Secondly, he has personally talked to the team that manufactured it, no doubt on a number of occasions. thirdly, he has then taken delivery of that piece, manufactured by that team, and is selling it under his name, as something by him. So a lot of the ‘journey’ of that piece is with him, it is the physical creation part of the journey so crucial to nicholas forrest that takes place in another person’s life.

    this lets us see, i believe, what nicholas wants in the art that he buys. he wants the artist, as much as the art. he, almost, wants the artist, the person, more than what they produce. he sees their art as a substitute for them, or at least he craves art because it is a piece of the artist’s person. art is deep for nicholas because he connects to the person who has created it, not, perhaps, necessarily so much with the art (the expression/picture/sculpture/proportions/aesthetic etc) itself.

    is nicholas in the wrong industry? does his apparent craving for a deep connection with people mean that he should be a psychologist or counsellor? would he be better suited as an advocate for those with disabilities? nicholas, have you considered being a lifeline telephone counsellor? this type of volunteering is very fulfilling, i know from personal experience.

  • http://www.artforprofits.com artforprofits

    Thanks for comment, I appreciate your point of view. As to whether I have considered being a lifeline telephone counsellor, indeed I have.

  • Luis

    There’s a terminology issue here. While I don’t know any valid and complete definition of art, for me factory “art” (like Koons’) is expression engineering. Author’s footprint is absent, so the craft becomes at most a piece of conceptual art and its interest depends on the will of the viewer.

  • http://www.artforprofits.com artforprofits

    Thanks for the comment Luis. I don’t doubt that there is a value in the concept behind this work but that doesn’t mean that an artist can exploit the whole “concept art” concept by charging ridiculous amounts for the art object.

    • Anonymous

      What does the amount charged have to do with it? Most artists these days don’t make their own paint unlike many artists in previous centuries, does this mitigate their input. Also, the idea of have a team of people work on large scale art is nothing new. If you were a successful artist during the Renaissance your envelopment in the process would have been very similar to Koons today. I believe that Koons work does have heart the manufactured nature of his work is a comment on our times and our current view of beauty. He is a conceptual artist on some level but I think he would agree that the work is indeed intended to be emotional and poetic. You would not expect a film director to produce all his own sets or even do hands on editing of the film, he generally doesn’t light the film. Having said all that can you argue that film can nev

      • Anonymous

        Never be art.

  • Dboy

    You have to remember that Koons, like many contemporary artists, understands that he has taken anything subjective that is linked to art out of his practise. This is not because he wishes to strip art of emotion, but to understand and question taste in both art and the consumerist market.

    I believe that art which is made for the sake of beauty is completely romanticized and regurgitated, people make work which is dreary, cold and abject because the world which we live in is just that.

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