Pixel power - Virtual art online commands high prices in the real world
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Art collectors are served well by the World Wide Web, allowing them to better compare prices, histories and upcoming auctions, and to buy and sell on the world market at the click of a mouse.
But the agent of change may be the product of change itself: Virtual art is becoming big business, with artworks created online fetching thousands of dollars, and pixel space selling for millions.
Second Life, the virtual world that mimics the real world, has held art auctions fetching big prices. And curiously "real world" galleries have sold artworks based on online creations -- capturing the image, enhancing it and transferring it to canvas. (Those pieces reportedly sold for $10,000 each.)
It may all sound strange. But Web companies and galleries, online and off, as well as the traditional art world have all joined the foray in the new, new world of art.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is staging an exhibition beginning this month entitled "Design and the Elastic Mind." It will include all sorts of representations of modernity and the future based on innovation. MOMA says the art derives from "designers' ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science and social mores."
Arts News magazine this month is running a cover story on "The Newest New Media," as well as several inside features devoted to the subject.
"Blogging has supplanted the construction of personal Web pages. Flickr, which lets you send messages to and connect with fellow shutterbugs, has overtaken Ofoto, a site on which people could just post their photos. Tagging, a method of organizing content via shared interests, has superseded online directories. And constantly updated, user-generated sites like Wikipedia have a cachet that single-author publishing lacks. Now these technologies are breathing life into Web art," the cover story in the magazine says.
To be sure, new media art isn't new. In the 1990's a New York artist famously sold a work of pixel art for a million dollars. And pixel art sales are still prominent: A British man sold a million pixels on his homepage for one dollar apiece; The Wall Street Journal reports a personal finance web site is selling pixels on its site as startup capital; and pixel advertising is growing -- literally buying the space on a site.
Those are derivatives of Web art, of course. Real Web art, if anything can be labeled "real" in the virtual world, is comprised of artists taking their crafts into the digital age. This means creating digital images for the screen; byte sized images.
ZERO1, a digital arts festival, will host its second event in San Jose in June and other stagings are held the world over from Berlin to Beijing. Art News notes that The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and New York's Museum of Contemporary Art are building collections.
A market reaction
When museums collect, armies of artists can be born. It also means private collectors will take notice and auction houses will carve out niches. Why? Markets are being created.
When long-standing institutions embrace the credibility of new forms of art it means a lot to new artists; their work won't be fleeting. Works will have the chance to become valued assets of estates, loaned to exhibitions and permanent collections. They may even get to become part of a wealthy person's passion. Bill Gates, for example, reportedly owns holographic art images.
Until catalogs set prices for artists and their works, however, digital art values will remain in the eye of the beholder. And that beholder had better have a computer. Digital art only shows on digital platforms.
Art collectors, however, may want to think more seriously about digital art form. We are on the cusp of the Digital Age. How many would have liked to have had been purchasing artworks when other ages (Impressionist, Modern, Post-Modern, etc.) dawned? Everyone, I'm sure.
So now may be the time to create a portfolio of art that could be worth a fortune in the future. And the genius of it is that you can even carry it with you -- on your iPhone.