Considering how much the art market has had to adapt to operating remotely over the past year, it shouldn’t be surprising that the kind of works that are sold online has evolved dramatically too. The annual Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report last week confirmed the obvious: global art sales took a big hit last year but online sales doubled in value. Meanwhile, those who have already made careers in the digital medium are attracting greater attention.
For many, this can be hard work: try getting excited about viewing a digital replica of a painting inside a digital replica of a gallery. It feels a little bit like your grandfather putting on multifocal lenses to tap in numbers on a touchscreen: he’s adapted but not seamlessly, and from time to time he wonders about the point of it all. A case in point is performance artist Marina Abramović (pictured), who last week announced that she will partner with the editorial arm of WeTransfer on a “digital manifestation” of her method, releasing a “meditative task” that is supposed to encourage “the exploration of being present in time and space.” That this should be coming from someone whose most famous work is The Artist is Present feels contradictory and challenging – which is perhaps the point.
Abramović appears proud of the democratic potential; her project is expected to reach 70 million people. It’s this supposed widening of audiences that is also behind much of the recent excitement over NFTs, or non-fungible tokens (the art world’s new favourite acronym now that OVRs, online viewing rooms, feel very “last year”). These tokens of ownership over digital files may be attracting younger collectors but it still feels hard to marry the idea of accessibility in art with anything in the so-called “crypto” realm. I can’t help but wonder whether or not these concepts of possession, speculation and currency now being explored offer an entry point that fosters lifelong love of an artwork – the kind of passion that lasts until they become grandparents themselves.
For a closer look at Marina Abramović's latest project, listen to our interview with Holly Fraser, editor-in-chief of WePresent, on the latest edition of Monocle 24’s ‘The Stack’.