Brand value of Art? or Aesthetic value of commodities?
Park, HyeMin : ¡®IKEA Korea¡¯ OPEN
2012. 10. 17 - 11. 21

Damien Hirst, his name value seems to be equivalent to a luxury brand. Just before the world markets tumbled, Hirst sold his works with a record-breaking Sotheby's auction in 2008 enabling him to became the world's richest living artist. When does a work of art become very pricey? Is it due to the artist's outstanding ability or to their growing fame? Hirst is not reluctant to reveal the production costs as if to mock the art market system. The value of For the Love of God is quoted at ¡Ì50m, though the net costs for the platinum and diamond skull sculpture is alleged to be about ¡Ì14m. This raises the question on how the profit margin is evaluated. It is common that the price of artworks is determined by production cost + worth of creativity. It seems that the price of work is based on the fame of artists and creative property of artists. That is, the abstract value of creative property as such is a crucial element to determine the value of works of art. In Hirst's case, over ¡Ì36m was paid for his genius idea.

The talents and creative abilities of artists were held in estimation since the late 15th century in Italy with a spirit of the Renaissance in which personalities and individualities were respected. However, with regards to artists' talents and creativities, they still remained simple with techniques of brushes compared to the current time where complex elements such as the status of preservation of works, market economy, and academia influence the price. Some economists criticize that the art market is formed by a bubble economy and outside of market principle. It is highly apt to value the works of art as exchangeable value of all commodities, and in the worst case, this tendency increases the costs of artworks by mystifying the artists' talent and creativity rather than estimating its aesthetical values. That is to say, works of art are considered as mass-products with exchange values in the market while the aesthetical values are less estimated with rampant commercialism. Arnold Hauser also stated that works of art are not evaluated by its aesthetic qualities after the advent of the art market.

Artist Heymin Park presents the 'IKEA' project as if she disagrees with the system in the art market. The series of drawings on the small canvases are recreations from the images found in IKEA catalogues. Copying them faithfully onto small box canvases in pen, she creates unique artworks from mass-produced images of mass-produced objects. Each price of her works is simply determined by offering them for sale at the same price as in the IKEA catalogue. There is consideration neither on her fame as an artist nor on values of her creativity. That is, original artworks at mass-produced prices. She astutely appropriates the mechanism of mass-production and adopts this into her process of art-making, and further suggests a new meaning or worth of an artwork within this mass-production-like art-making system. In other words, Park opens a discussion and questions where the essence of art heads for within the bubble market.

However, it is only feasible to question when Park is enthusiastically engaged with viewers and the viewers actively participate in the project. In terms of her working methodology, she observes everyday life and its structure, and her new discoveries encourages her desire of communication. She often engages with viewers through providing a stage where reality and fiction are mingled together to suggest a situation to be questioned. Situations where the artist can interact with her audience, subsequently inviting the viewers to also be a part of the role play without their knowing. Participation is a key element in her works. In IKEA project, Park again decides to play roles both as an artist and a shop assistant simultaneously. By playing with the distinctions between artist (producer) and shop assistant (performer), she transforms a normal gallery space into a market, changing the relation between the artist and her audience. That is to say, her performative gesture does not only alter the role of white cube as a gallery space to appreciate works of art to a commercial market but also allows for passive viewers to become active consumers. The aim of Park's work is to provide a suggested situation where second production is taken place through participation of her audiences rather than aesthetical appreciation on artworks. Through this theatrical situation, her gesture humorously questions the fine line between originality and mass-production, of commercial value and its relation to artists' creative property in the current time where rampant commercialism even capitalize human beings. The Art industry is not an exception and Park's IKEA project also serves as a warning to the current art market where the artistic values are subverted.


Arnold Hauser(1953), Nakchung Beck(trans.), The Social History of Art and Literature, Changbi
Claire Bishop(2006), Participations, The MIT Press
Daily Economy, Herald Economy, etc
Jongphil Byun(2010), ¡®Contemporary Art Market and its dilemma of price determination on artworks¡¯, Korean Art Critics Review 2012 Summer 97issue
Michel de Certeau(1980), Tom Conley(trans.), Culture in the Plural, University of Minnesota Press

Words by Gahee Park