Sometimes the most enamoring art isn’t found inside spacious museum halls or on a gallery’s white surfaces. Echoing the visual brilliance of Hubert Duprat’s golden-cocooning caddisfly larvae and the stunning, vibrant insect wings depicted in Linden Gledhill’s photography, the enthralling koi fish of Quality Koi Co. Inc. are a wild reminder that natural phenomena often produces the most stunning, living, breathing art.
Founded in the early 2000s by owner Joseph Zuritsky, the New Jersey-based koi breeding farm is presently managed by Matthew McCann, who was born into a koi-collecting family, alongside his wife Jennifer McCann. The McCann couple is emphatic about the artistic nature of their fish: “Nishikigoi [koi] are swimming art. There are no two koi that are the same; their color patterns are each an individual piece of art,” Matthew tells The Creators Project. “People who collect koi are collecting art pieces just the same as someone who collects paintings.”
Similar to the financial disparities among artworks floating in the art market, koi fish also run the spectrum of monetary value. For your entry-level enthusiast, Quality Koi sells less extravagant, $50 koi fish. But for veterans and those seeking truly lavish fish, the breeding farm sells enormous, majestic koi, with Japanese lineages, for upwards of $2,000.
Beyond their beauty, these high-end koi are generally bred and sold with competitive intentions in mind. Different than the art world, which tends to shy away from applying expressly qualitative measures to works of art, koi fish are frequently compared to one another in the many competitive koi shows that happen throughout the world. In just the past year, seven different fish bred by Quality Koi have won grand prizes in various koi shows.
Understanding what makes a champion koi is complex: “It’s not a short or easy answer—it takes years of understanding, They are like diamonds; I can tell you what makes a perfect diamond, but without studying them you may not understand,” Matthew explains, before giving us some more definite guidelines. “A grand champion will be a larger and older koi; 36+ inches that provide the right body shape, youthful lustful skin, stable color, and the correct pattern.”
Despite the frequent competitive success, the most rewarding part about breeding koi isn’t breeding champions. For McCann, the long-term relationships he develops with the fish are the most gratifying part: “A good female can take six to eight years or even more to reach her best. When that times comes, then I know my work that started so many years ago was right.”
If you ever happen to be in southern New Jersey, make sure to visit the breeding farms at Quality Koi Co. Inc. in person.