Saturday, November 17, 2007

Art and the Hello Kitty Syndrome

Image courtesy of Sotheby's/AP.

Jeff Koons' stainless steel sculpture Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) recently sold for the whopping price of US $23.6 million.

Then there's the (C) Murakami retro currently at LA MOCA with its Louis Vuitton shop and high commerce marketing tie-ins.

Art at the high end of the market functions a lot like the famed Hello Kitty image.

Hello Kitty does not have a mouth, so her face does not show emotion. It gains strength and resonance by viewers who read their own psychological readings into it. The Hello Kitty image is like a mirror and reflects the viewer's own empty wishes and desires back.

Don't you think Koon's Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold), for example, operates in a similar vein? It is fairly vapid in meaning and seems to reflect back its ostentatious feelings of wealth to the viewer (potential owner), kind of giving a metaphorical pat on the fat cat's back "greed is good; wealth is good. Don't think too much."

Writer Andrew Berardini writes on his blog ( about not being swayed by the art market and for the need for holding art to the same standards of literature:

"When market decides quality, and curators get in bed on this to satisfy trusties something wicked this way walks. These definitions can be based, somewhat, on the same definitions as literature. Art that is made for a high-end market with little actual significance and of substantially lower intellectual quality or complexity are the pulp. Complex art works of rich intellectual quality are the literature."


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