Rant 75: Virtual collecting

Rant 75: Virtual collecting Paul Matosic, Overload, 2010

How much would you spend on a limited edition screensaver? That's what s[edition] - the website which sells affordable digital work by big name artists - offers. David Trigg takes a look and wonders if it is all a little too limiting.

Would you pay £500 for a screen-saver? How about if it was a limited edition, created by Damien Hirst? Still not convinced?

To be fair to s[edition], the new online gallery offering the Hirst screen-saver, it's the most expensive work gracing their digital walls (what is it with Hirst and over-inflated prices?). With prices starting at just £5, the virtual gallery aims to offer work by leading contemporary artists at affordable prices.

Offering low priced work by big name artists may initially appear positive, even democratic. After all, who but the world's wealthiest collectors can afford to buy an original work by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, or Tim Noble & Sue Webster? But what might the impact be on the affordable art market and on young, emerging artists seeking to establish their careers?

New collectors entering the market for contemporary art often champion emerging artists whose works are still very affordable and whose careers rely on this type of early support. With the introduction of digital galleries offering affordable works by famous artists, will potential collectors now be wooed away from emerging talent in favour of big name brands?

If you're going to shell out for contemporary art, why embrace ephemeral, virtual works? Why not invest in actual objects by artists who need supporting. Online galleries such as New Blood Art or Emerging Artists  offer drawings, paintings and sculptures by young artists, representing an investment far more worthwhile than a digital video flickering on your smartphone. And besides, 'real', tangible art does not need the latest, expensive electronic gadgets in order to be appreciated.

With artists such as David Hockney already embracing the digital frontier, perhaps this is an indication of the way things are going; but in a world already saturated with pixelated, screen-based imagery, I'll take hand-crafted objects any day.

Contributed by David Trigg
David is an art writer based in Bristol. He is a member of the International Association of Art Critics and a regular contributor to Art Monthly, a-n, MAP, Art Papers and Frieze.com. 

The views expressed in The Rant are those of David Trigg and forum contributors and unless specifically stated are not those of Axisweb. See our terms and conditions


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