Digital Art’s Debut With Art Collectors, In First Major Auction

Published:  October 15, 2013
Bonnie Abbott
Digital Art’s Debut With Art Collectors, In First Major Auction

A few days ago, auction house Phillips hosted a special event, selling the work of 17 artists. This particular auction was the first of its kind, where the artists sold something already freely available, and the collectors acquired pieces they could never physically hold. Paddles ON!, a collaboration between Phillips, Tumblr and curator Lindsay Howard, auctioned websites, YouTube videos, software, an animated GIF, and a digital version of a flip book—unique pieces of niche creativity from all over the virtual world. The total sold at the auction concluded at over $90 000.

When did web-based art start pulling in collector’s money? There is a skepticism about work that can’t be hung on a wall, as Phillip’s director of digital strategy comments, but the curiosity with collectors is there. “We’re presenting these artists as part of a new wave of art-making, from a generation where using technology isn’t radical or experimental,”  she says. For Phillips, the very occurrence of the auction is  with the intention to encourage greater prevalence of digital works in the market.

Rozendaal, ‘Into Time 13 08 13′ at Paddles ON!

This kind of digital work forms part of a long line of boundary-busting art. The use of technology is no longer something new, but an essential part of creativity. Rafaël Rozendaal, something of a pioneer in the world of online/web art, creates websites that have totalled around 40 million views—far more than a gallery could ever accommodate. His work was set to sell at around $6000 each, along with a contract with a traded web domain that was to remain free and open to the public. “I always choose accessibility over exclusivity,” Rozendaal has said.

Aside from Rozendaal’s domain tradable websites, how do you value a YouTube video? Petra Cortright, whose webcam video RGB, D-LAY is up for auction, has also found it difficult. “Pricing always makes me uncomfortable,” she says, and explains that she bases it an an equation regarding the current view count on YouTube. She hopes this encourages collectors to keep circulating the artwork online to increase its value.

Petra Cortwright ‘RGB, D-LAY’ at Paddles ON!

Kate Steciw and Silvia Bianchi & Ricardo Juarez’s work in Paddles ON!

For collectors, this form of artistic experimentation (predominantly created in the last 5 years by young artists) is now catching on as a comprehensible zeitgeist, in the face of the web’s infinite levels of creative opportunity. For artists, digital is an exciting medium—its cheap, boundless, forever changing and accessible to new, young or the outsider.

“I’m empowered by the Web because you do things that have never been done before, and there’s no politics,” says Rozendaal. ”You can show what you want.”

One Response

  1. It’s great to see that we’ve now reach a point with digital design that it is now consider true “digital art”. Great article. :)

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