The art object is an object whose objecthood claims an essence. All objects have an essence–no doubt about that–but an art object is one that knows its essence cannot be known. The art object always has another object in mind, unknowable; that is its essence. The art object is never itself, and although this is not a unique feature, the art object says it is not itself. An apple cannot say it is not itself. The art object points in many directions, the more the more successful the art object, although it does not point in all directions.
The art object does have an aim, its directions pulled magnetically toward it. This is what the critic and the art historian try to describe, although they usually just mistake their own direction with the aim of whatever particular art object happens under their gaze.
The artist does not need to be aware of the aim of her art object; history tells us this has never been the case anyway. She merely has some vague, inaccurate conception of what could possible be. Her art object is always virtual, even when it is “finished”. She always nags at herself about how she could have finished it.
For us, it is complete. The art object could never have been anything but what it is, staring back at us like death. We are so curious.