The Pursuit of an Artificial Perfection in Art
If 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.
**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.