“If you can create a market for (digital) kittens, you can do it for digital art,” said Anders Petterson, author of the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report. “Millennials are comfortable with this kind of technology. There is the potential to open up an entire new ecosystem outside the traditional art world.”
Breathless quotes like this – which appeared in The New York Times recently – have been cropping up with increased regularity and, of course, it’s entirely possible that one day they may be true. In the meantime, it’s still fair to say that most art collectors prefer to buy art that they can carry home – as opposed to files they download. Happily, this state of affairs isn’t putting off artists from creating the most heavenly work via digital means. And it’s pleasing to note that museums are continuing to collect born digital work, a trend which I’m pleased to report that Lumen prize artists are benefiting from.
Since highlighting the recent acquisition of Alexandra Handal’s web-based work by the Danish Contemporary Art Museum recently, I’ve discovered that a museum closer to home – London’s V&A – has collected several works from Lumen Prize artists in the last 18 months.
Most recently, for example, the V&A took two works from Fabrizio Augusto Poltronieri, a finalist for the 2017 Still Image award, including his shortlisted work, ‘Dionysios’. And Ed Bateman, Lumen Prize finalist in 2014 & 2016, has had a number of his prints collected by the V&A as well as institutions around the world, particularly in Asia. Both Poltronieri and Bateman’s works have been collected on paper, along with most born digital work so far. Paper is still so much easier to store, file and catalogue than files, at least for today’s museum curators.
The largest acquisition of work by a Lumen Prize artist, however, bucks this trend. In 2016, Doug Dodds, V&A senior curator and Lumen Prize judging panel member, announced the V&A would collect work from Lumen Prize 2014 Gold Award winner Andy Lomas’s show at Watermans in Brentford, London, called Morphogenetic Creations, a show curated by Irini Padamitriou, a 2018 Lumen Prize judging panel member. Tellingly, while this acquisition involved nine large format prints, it also included two multi-screen video works and one stereoscopic video work which were all provided in the form of files, together with a simple Android-based 3D-printed stereo viewer that allows the work to be viewed without having to recreate the full original installation which was based on dual projection screens.
For the world’s largest art and design museum to take in files of this kind for storage, cataloguing, preservation and hopefully display, this isn’t a revolution. But it does mean a big shift in the right direction.
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