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Check out this video on how New York based artist Jeff Koons creates art.
The key phrase here is “I create systems.” That is, Koons has processes for converting his ideas into physical realities even if he never lifts a finger on a particular piece. The Wall Street Journal had a recent article on this and how the use of assistants goes beyond just Koons (The Art Assembly Line, June 3).

It’s a phenomenon that’s rarely discussed in the art world: The new work on a gallery wall wasn’t necessarily painted by the artist who signed it. Some well-known artists, such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, openly employ small armies of assistants to do their paintings and sculptures. Others hire help more quietly. …

Mr. Koons says he has 150 people on his payroll and that he himself never wields a paintbrush. “If I had to be doing this myself, I wouldn’t even be able to finish one painting a year,” he says. Every year his studio averages 10 paintings and 10 sculptures. In the last four years, six of his works offered at auction have sold for prices between $11 million and $25 million each.

This is an interesting idea. On the one hand, if you buy an original piece by a particular artist, you would assume that you are getting something that they actually worked on — as in the sense that they physically put in some effort. On the other hand, it is a bit of a double standard in comparison to other design/artistic professions. A famous architect may be hired to design a large building (like, say, for a business school) but the client would be naive to believe that the Big Name would be responsible for designing every nook and cranny of the structure.

There is another interesting point in the article.

“An artist has a choice to make,” says Mark Moore, owner of Mark Moore Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif. “They either hire assistants or they risk not being able to meet their obligations to their dealers. Then the art market, which is fickle and sensitive, gets the impression that the artist has disappeared from the art world.”

An artist needs to gain distribution with galleries but galleries need a flow of product to keep collectors coming back. That seems to create an interesting tension. Artists presumably benefit from some level of exclusivity but that possibly contradicts keeping galleries loaded with new pieces.

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