Saturday, June 16, 2007

Art Space News: Video Art: Problems, Potential, and Future

(Collectors are not buying video art today, but the children of tomorrow will embrace the video art of the not-so-distant past.)

It is no secret that video art is one of the hottest mediums of our times. Perhaps the popularity of video art is due to the fact that it is a reflection of our technology-driven lives or maybe people relate to it because the pieces often demand the viewers attention. However, video art has many problems and a lot of potential regardless of the reasons it is enjoyed.

Attend any major art fair or biennial and you will observe that art involving technology is becoming very popular. However, popularity does not mean that the work is selling. The simple truth is that collectors are reluctant to buy video art. It has yet to earn that form of acceptance. This is the major problem facing video artists today- acceptance.

This Year's Art Basel had a plethora of plasma screens and art utilizing high technology. As always, the video work attracted crowds and was awarded praise by onlookers. However, on the secondary market, video art does not fair (no pun intended) so well- selling for far less than it would elsewhere. In other words, if video art does not sell at a major art fair it may stand little chance of selling at an art auction.

Another problem for video art is the very thing that attracts people to it. Unlike traditional art forms, which are still and silent, video art is often alive with noise and rapid visual movement- moving art that attacks the senses. The average collectors enjoys observing these works, but are not apt to purchase video art due to the fact that the piece will "Invade the environment of the collection", as one anonymous collector put it.

The strongest supporters of video art are primarily museums. This is partly due to the fact that they have more room to exhibit video installations. Another key factor is the fact that museums can purchase video art for their collections at a relatively cheap price compared to other forms of art- including photography, which for the longest time struggled in the art market.

For example, a museum can purchase video art by a famous artist for as much as three times less than what they would pay for a painting by the same artist. How long will those great buys last? Each new generation embraces technology more than the last. Remember, many people thought that television would never 'take off'.

Video art has the potential to 'take off' as well- with each new generation that embraces it. I'm certain that future works of art that involve technology may struggle as video art has in recent years. However, the children of tomorrow will be far more accepting than the adults of today. That is something that the collectors of today must remember!

That is the biggest issue for video art, the fact that it can take decades for people to accept new forms of technology that are used in artistic creation. Take photography for example, people questioned the validity of photography as an art form for the longest time. There are still some people today who do not accept photography as art, but it is far more accepted than it was 50 years ago.

The torch of 'is it art' is now being passed to video artists and will continue to be passed to artists who further utilize technology for their artistic endeavors in the future. However, like photography, video art will be far more accepted by future generations. History tends to repeat... collectors need to acknowledge that now or regret it later.

The strong foundation that video art has today occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. Artists like Nam June Paik, Fred Forest, and Andy Warhol rooted the art form where others had failed. However, video art will continue to have an uphill battle for acceptance no matter what famous names are attached to it. That is a fact that collectors must consider, but I don't think it should hold them back from making a purchase.

Think of it as a 'ladder of acceptance'- one form of art involving technology takes the next step toward acceptance once a new form of art involving technology takes the very first step- that first step can have a very long fall! It may take a decade or two for video art to gain the level of respect that photography has at this time. Collectors will flock to purchase video art once that acceptance is gained.

A savvy collector would be wise to collect video art now while the prices are so cheap. I have a strong feeling that many collectors will have big regrets twenty years down the road for having not bought into that market today. Collectors should consider the purchase of video art as an investment in a form of art that has the potential to become a major influence in the art world in the near future.

Will video art replace the value of traditional art? I doubt it. However, it is obvious that future generations will embrace art that utilizes technology. Think about how photography is accepted today compared to 50 years ago. Think of the number of children today who know more about computers and other forms of technology compared to the knowledge of their parents. Think about how computer media has influenced the youth of our time. It only makes sense that their children will will fully accept high technology as well... even if it is in the form of art.

The children of tomorrow WILL embrace the video art of today.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


Anonymous said...

we are quickly becoming marshall mcluhan's image of the future. "the medium is the message" dynamic is becoming more and more apparent. however i see it leading to more ADD than hypnotism, mcluhan's observations didn't take into account the impact of the remote

Anonymous said...

my only concerns about collecting video or digital art is it's proof of originality (could 5,000 people own a video and what wold that be worth? - how does deal with digital provonance?)

And for that matter how can you be sure digital or video is archival enough to test time.

Balhatain said...

You both have made good points.

"And for that matter how can you be sure digital or video is archival enough to test time."

Oddly enough, many painting created in the last 100 years are having a hard time doing this. This is mostly due to the fact that so many artists have worked with mixed medium.

Museums spend thousands each year just to maintain paintings that are only 40 or 50 years old. Those are works by now famous artists. So imagine how many paintings from lesser known artist have decayed all together.

I've read that cds have a life-span of 20 to 50 years. Tapes do not fair so well. Also, since many video artists sell copies for $50 to $75 does that mean if you have an original and make a copy in order to preserve the piece in your collection does that mean it is only worth the same? I'll have to look into this.

I guess what I'm saying is that you take a risk with any piece you purchase. My only advice is to make sure that anything you buy is signed. :P

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to prove a lot of art isn't a fake.

All art breaks down over time.

You buy music and film that is copied? What's so wrong about buying a copy of an origional?

Anonymous said...

well not really. It's not hard to prove art is fake, that's what experts at auction (and elsewhere) do for a living.

and true, we collect movies and music for fun and there is nothing wrong with collecting signed copies of an artists work - however saavy collectors/investors will always seek out a signed original foremost.

Jerrem said...

Maybe the artworld needs to think past the idea of an orginal artwork? in this new age of copy and paste if a work is worth anything archiving is never a problem, in fact copying promotes the work for the owner.

Maybe collectors should focus on the "artifacts" instead. little fragments of evidence of the artist. The little things that help tell the story of the work beyond the digital copy.