ARE ONLINE MARKETPLACES THE ANSWER?

Despite Brad Troemal’s declaration back in 2012 that digital art’s infinite reproducibility and widespread accessibility excluded it from the contemporary art market, this study has demonstrated how technological developments and the increasing familiarity with e-commerce has allowed media practices to integrate into the main contemporary art world.[1] An examination of digital art’s reproducibility and the questions it poses to value, authenticity and ownership has revealed the challenges that the medium poses to the art market. Chiefly, this discussion has exposed how digital art tests the commercial art world, asking more from its collector as a result of its technological underpinning.

The platforms that have been explored in this discussion offer just two examples of how digital art is being integrated into the art economy. While Sedition and Daata Editions embed themselves in the art world, providing reassurance to collectors through the use of terms such as ‘limited edition’, ‘certificate of authenticity’ and ‘provenance’, a common thread that runs across all the marketplaces is the rhetoric of accessibility. As David Gryn notes of his own platform: ‘it’s all free to purchase, and it is all freely distributed: […] there [are] no boundaries’ [Appendix C].

The ease with which art can be purchased from these platforms shatters the ‘threshold resistance’ that has long existed within the contemporary art world. With the aim of encouraging the ‘man on the street’ to purchase art, these marketplaces are in a position to support the development of the art consumer rather than the collector [Appendix C]. As the online platform continues to be an important access point for new buyers, and as digital technology becomes as real as the physical, these marketplaces have the capability of propelling art into the consumers’ digital sphere.[2] However, while these platforms signal a growing awareness of the aesthetic, cultural and economic value of digital practices, they unfortunately continue to ostracise the digital from the analogue. In a seminar discussion entitled ‘How do you sell digital art?’ Kelani Nichole revealed that these marketplaces were not the answer to the ‘digital divide’.[3] In a recent article she expanded on her comment, observing that:

[Although] some platforms are more promising than others, the current crop of platforms falls short when it comes to compelling collectors to invest in new media art, and largely fails to address fundamental issues of preservation and distributed authenticity.[4]

As the director and founder of New York’s Transfer Gallery, Nichole will no doubt find fault with the online marketplaces that have been developing since, by their very nature, online platforms are able to escape the role of gatekeeper associated with the bricks-and-mortar institution.

Nonetheless, if technology-engaged art is going to be integrated successfully into the main contemporary art world, the proliferation of marketplaces, digital attribution services and dedicated displays will not absolve the ‘digital divide’. Nichole is correct that these platforms are currently falling short when it comes to encouraging collectors to invest in digital media. However, the model that is being proposed by Daata Editions does have the potential for success. Unlike Sedition, Daata has been actively engaged in promoting and supporting the artists it commissions. By taking the artists they commission offline to fairs, biennales and festivals, Daata is proactively encouraging artists to create works of art digitally. In order to succeed, the initiatives that have developed need to provide the support and the opportunities to ensure that the artists deliver to the best of their ability.

As the online art world continues to grow, e-commerce channels will play a dynamic role in developing a place for digital artists. While the trepidation around technology-engaged art will likely remain for the foreseeable future, now that a digital work of arts authenticity and exclusivity has been guaranteed, there can be little doubt that digital art has ‘the potential to be a major contender’ in the main contemporary art world. [5]

[1] Troemel, ‘Why your JPEGs aren’t making you a billionaire’.

[2] McAndrews, 2016 TEFAF Art Market Report, 47.

[3] Kelani Nichole speaking at ‘How do you sell Digital Art?’, Lumen Prize Seminar, Creative Tech Week, New York (May 4, 2016).

[4] Alyssa Buffenstein, ‘Here It Is, Your Guide to Displaying Digital Art’, The Creators Project, (June 24, 2016), http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk/blog/8-digital-art-platforms-revolutionizing-the-way-we-view-art [accessed 22/08/2016].

[5] Butcher, ‘Emerging Technology’.