…Liberty Bell differs from Koons’s sculptures in one significant way: it is a near-perfect replica of an imperfect object. When making a faithful reproduction, Koons will often distort some other feature, like size (think: giant balloon dogs) or surface (giant, mirror-polished balloon dogs). His work also traffics in composite ideals—to create his eight-foot Balloon Venus he inflated and tied hundreds of balloons so that he could select the perfect buttocks, breast, and head of each. Liberty Bell is anything but ideal; in fact, the object’s most well-known feature is its flaw.
Koons was given after-hours access to the Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia, to conduct structured-light scans. Performed by Direct Dimensions, the scans work by projecting a known pattern onto an unknown surface and measuring the distortions. (This is significantly less detailed than C.T. scans—generally used to capture all the external and internal data, of, say, a brain tumor—which Koons has begun using for his “Balloon” series. But he couldn’t very well disassemble a national treasure.)
The point cloud data from the structured-light scans were stitched together and converted into a 3D computer rendering at Koons’s studio. All variety of CAD (computer aided design) software, such as Rhino, is used to manipulate those renderings, and some data sets are so complex that simply processing them can take up to a year, as was the case with Koons’s Pink Ballerina, a yet unfinished work five years in the making….
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