Millennials may be the target market for digital art.
Is there a niche for digital art in society today? This is the question that ran through my mind after reading Sam Sedgman’s thought-provoking article, “What Does it Mean to ‘Buy’ Digital Art?,” which explores owning digital art and what that means. The art world may still be deciding digital technology’s influence in the marketplace, as Sedgman explains. But I have begun to think about digital art in a more macro context: how digital art coincides with society today.
Sedgman gives examples of artists selling GIFs (a file format to store digital video images) and websites. He duly notes buying digital art compared to a tangible object: “‘Owning’ these things doesn’t mean the same as owning a Picasso.” This is because websites, for instance, are not physical things people take home: the public can still access them. Sedgman’s argument is further substantiated with his reference to the company Sedition that enables people to relish artwork by contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Shepard Fairey and Jenny Holzer, through digital media. The idea, too, is that such artwork is portable, since the artwork is accessible by phone, computer, television and tablet. “Sedition brings you an art experience for your digital life,” its website states. The key word is “experience,” which millennials are actively pursuing today.
“Millennials ‘are geared to pleasure rather than to possessions,’ making them less inclined to buy things,” The Economist quotes a Boston Consulting Group study in a December 2014 article. As a millennial myself, I agree with this finding. With some extra pocket change, I would also prefer to have an experience — seeing the Great Wall of China, relaxing in Bora Bora or learning first hand about the Acropolis — instead of buying a tangible, luxury good. But does the same hold true for art?
One of the reasons people flock to museums and galleries is because a reproduction in a book or a PowerPoint slide does not do the art justice. Although I had studied and seen reproductions of Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,” for example, nothing compared to seeing it last summer in Holland’s Rijksmuseum: its immensity and contrasting use of light have had a lasting impact. That said, one reason people may buy art is because the actual object, painting or sculpture is often different than a reproduction of it, digitally or otherwise.
Perhaps there will always be a desire for some people to own an actual piece of art. But there is also an opportunity for digital art, since it parallels society’s inclination for experiences. With the buzz of social media, people can share experiences with the world of a lavish trip or adventure on Facebook and Twitter, for instance. It is not only having the experience, but also sharing it with others. The same can be said of art. Sedition is an organization that fills this need. It affords people across a variety of income levels to have the experience of being an art collector of limited edition contemporary art works, along with the bragging rights it warrants; it also provides a digital art experience.
Will digital art overtake the desire for the real thing? The lasting impact of digital art is to be determined. For any indication, it is worth looking at society.