Digital art has become significantly more important in recent months. Therefore, the question of how best to collect and exhibit it is of growing importance to artists, curators and collectors alike.
Digital art, also known as computer art or media art, dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the first computers came up. Pioneers via Vera Molnér, Manfred Mohr and Paul Brown are experimenting with the emerging possibilities of generating art.
In contrast to their more traditional counterparts in painting and sculpture, digital works of art, even if they are sometimes not insignificant, can seem intangible in an art world that is still very focused on color and canvas. In certain cases, the distinction between different art categories can even be blurred. But how exactly we look at art – in a gallery, on our phones, or at home – is now more than ever a technological question.
While digital art seems intangible at first glance, it offers certain advantages over conventional art. For example, if it is stored on a USB stick, it can be stored more space-saving and transported more easily. Digitally certified, digital work is also very difficult to counterfeit. On your mobile phone, you can also show a digital work of art to friends on the go, far away from your own four walls. Last but not least, the variety of manifestations is fascinating.
The following forms of presentation, which have become more attractive both in the gallery and in the house, give an overview of the possibilities available to digital art collectors today.
1. Art prints
Let’s start with something that everyone should recognize. For many people, art prints offer the most familiar way to show art. No special equipment or even a socket is required to hang a digital print that can be framed and positioned at will. A “picture” for hanging may not always be immediately identified as a “digital” work of art. And yet such works are often created with digital technology. Who doesn’t want exclusive printing as part of the facility? The beauty of limited-edition prints is that as a collector you can not only contribute directly to your artistic career, but you can also hold on to something that only has a select number of collectors. Prints also cost a fraction of what an original artwork would cost, while offering the opportunity to own pieces by an established artist at museum level.
Digital art can be printed on a variety of surfaces, a popular medium is paper or alu dibond. The technologies available for this process have multiplied and improved significantly over the years. Although inkjet printing is now easily accessible to many of us, the average home or office printer doesn’t come close to the size, detail, and contrast that can be achieved with today’s high-end art printers. In addition to new printing techniques, special types of paper for digital printing have also been developed. UNPAINTED artist Birthe Blauth uses a high-end printing technique that produces very good quality.
2. Sculptures and installations
Digital art doesn’t always have to take place on the computer screen. In addition to flatware, there are numerous examples of digitally created three-dimensional object art, such as the suggestive multimedia constructions of the Czech artist Jakub Nepras. Spatial artistic objects can also come from the 3-D printer.
Digital art is also suitable for installation, often with interactive features. For example, Miguel Chevalier’s work Pixel’s Wave / 8 Ties Herms at the UNPAINTED Media Art Fair 2014. This type of art is usually only partially suitable for private collectors, as it requires larger dedicated areas. Some collectors transform parts of their homes by installing projectors and making “dark rooms” to enjoy video art on the walls.
3. Art on the Monitor / Video Art
Unlike printing, some forms of digital art never leave the screen world in which they originated. Video art, also known as time-based media or moving imagery, is such a medium. Developed by artists such as Nam June Paik, video art can range from explorations in cinematography and animation to highly abstracted products of feedback, noise, and distortion. The duration of these videos can vary from a few seconds to several hours. Not every art video is digital art, but there are completely digital animations or animations enriched with augmented reality.
While many people could associate video art with lofty gallery spaces and 360° surround sound, the emergence of affordable flat screens and digital projectors brings the tools to show moving images to a larger number of art lovers. Manufacturers even offer screens designed specifically for the representation of art. These screens often also have a connection to the Internet and can be controlled by smartphone apps.
A number of websites, such as UNPAINTED, offer digital artworks that can be downloaded. The advantage for the collector here is easy handling and portability with very little space requirement.
Artists or their galleries offer video works for sale as a file on a USB with a presentation about the work, for example the works of Manuela Hartel. In addition to a USB stick, artists also offer a version of the video file, which is available for download after purchase. In some cases, even the LED screen or a beamer is included.
4. Blockchain (NFT) Art
As fascinating as digital art is, you may be wondering about the question of originality. Can there still be an “original” if works of art can be copied so easily and precisely? Recently, the so-called NFT art (also known as “Crypto Art”) is experiencing an unprecedented upswing.
Blockchain art has tackled the problem of originality by reintroducing the possibility of verifiability and thrift back into the digital realm. A number of tools and platforms use blockchain cryptography to demonstrably make digital artworks rare and verify their authenticity. Websites such as Nifty Gateway or Foundation Art have created a marketplace for digital art where purchases are delivered with an exclusive download, a certificate of authenticity and the right to display the artwork. The platforms essentially allow visitors to buy tokenized digital art online, whether it’s an image, GIF or other files. NFTs promise uniqueness while being tradable. As a rule, a regulation is anchored in the programmed smart contract, according to which the artist still earns a share in later transactions. This is not usually the case on the secondary market at present.
One of the consequences of injecting digital art with a dose of scarcity is that its collector’s value is increasing. In 2018, the crypto artwork “The Forever Rose” sold for a million us dollars, the most expensive virtual artwork of all time. In March 2021, this was sensationally surpassed with the bid of 69.3 million US dollars at auction at Christie’s for the artwork “Everydays – The First 5000 Days,” by artist Beeple. This was a tokenized JPEG file.
While the “real” digital artists, including those who call themselves “NFT artists”, create native works of art that do not otherwise exist, certain platforms offer digitized or tokenized versions of works of art by established non-digital artists whose works were originally based in the analogue world.
5. Augmented and Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have become accessible to a wide audience in recent years through appropriate “glasses” that can be put on. In addition to gaming, the art has proven to be a grateful application. Some artists, such as Banz & Bowinkel or STATION ROSE use augmented art to make them visible with a smartphone app. The number of A