Jon Ippolito on Sun, 14 Apr 2002 20:25:13 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> how to sell digital art

Following is a synopsis of the "Collecting the Uncollectible" panel discussion held at the Guggenheim last Tuesday 9 April. The topic, new business models for digital artists, was conceived by artist Mark Napier together with Kim Kanatani and Rosanna Flouty of the Guggenheim Museum. Artists John Klima and John Simon participated along with independent distributor Michele Thursz.

Since I wasn't a very "moderate" moderator, I'll post my own position on this topic in followup messages.




In response to the question of whether software-based can art be sold, Mark Napier said that there are believers and disbelievers, but for some reason they don't seem to be talking to each other. The purpose of this panel, as he saw it, was to reconcile those worlds.

Jon Ippolito then cited some of the impediments the traditional art market
perceives in digital art--the challenges it raises from traditional standpoints of aura, durability, materiality, access, promotion, and ownership. 

Ippolito proposed that the variable media paradigm currently being pursued by the Guggenheim and its partners offered a solution to the "variable aura" and perceived ephemerality of digital art. (More info at John Klima's solution was to offer a personal pledge to upgrade his project EARTH for any collector as long as he's still alive. 

To give the audience a sense for the range of materiality possible in digital art, John Simon contrasted his acrylic sculptures cut by a software-controlled laser with his well-known applet Every Icon, which is e-mailed to collectors and can be installed on various types of hardware. The fact that Simon has sold 125 Every Icons to date suggests that immateriality is not by itself an impediment to selling digital art.

In response to the dilemma of how to keep digital art accessible (via the Web, for example) while at the same time allowing for a rarity conducive to sales, Klima has explored a tiered approach to production and distribution. The online version of EARTH consists of a free cross-platform Java version ("just a simple elegant Landsat retriever"), but he limited to eight an edition of full-featured "turn-key" hi-resolution computer versions.

Simon and media art distributor Michele Thursz demonstrated two approaches to the promotion problem--ie, how to get digital art under the nose of collectors unfamiliar with it. Simon illustrated the Do It Yourself model with his "Souvenir Shop" on Simon discussed working with to host his online store and the costs and benefits of controlling his own distribution. Thursz contrasted the DIY model with her experience as an independent distributor. Thursz has worked with galleries such as bitforms and nonprofits such as Turbulence to help connect artists with curators and develop new revenue models for digital art.

Finally, on the topic of unique v. multiple ownership, Simon introduced the concept of editions--that is, multiple but individual ownership--as applied both to hardware and software. Simon discussed when to number an edition and when to limit it. For example, his LCD panels are numbered and limited; Every Icon is numbered and unlimited; and his laser sculptures are unnumbered and unlimited.

Napier introduced another form of multiple ownership, this time shared rather than individual. Collectors can purchase one of fifty shares of Napier's recent project Waiting Room; this entitles them to a CD with the requisite software to view and interact with this communal graphic interface. Collectors also receive a certificate, and there was some discussion about whether what they were ultimately buying was the viewing experience or the certificate itself.

In conclusion, Ippolito raised the broader issue of whether art should be sold at all. Doctors anticipate he'll make a full recovery ;)

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: