Last year, techno-hub Tokyo opened doors to its first digital art museum ever. By creating a collision between art and augmented reality and bringing it to the public, it transformed the art scene completely.
Inspired by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, teamLab, a group of “ultra-technologists” exhibited large-scale digital art installations into a 107.000 square foot venue, featuring digitally “painted” vibrant, alive, and surreal landscapes in what seems like a true Instagram dream. Digital art has been on a rise. In 2018, the Dutch Digital Art Museum was opened in Almere, being Netherland’s first. The hype about these museums seems to become popular by the day. It leaves experts with an important question: what does this mean for traditional museums?
To cope with
Before the 19th century, painting and sculpture were considered the only acceptable form of art. Being restricted to class privilege, they were commissioned and curated only by the elite. Luckily, this is not the case today, but people still feel that they do not understand fine art, making it uncomfortable for them to visit these museums. However, times are changing, and technology is proving itself adaptable to such change. Unlike before, museums are trying to cope through digitization in an attempt to make art accessible for all. Nora Vaage, assistant professor at Maastricht University, is a specialist in art and technology. Her researches are focused on the relationship between digital art and museums. Vaage thinks that museums can actually benefit from such a shift. “Since there are clear drops in audience numbers, major museums have adopted various digital aids to engage especially younger audiences.”
“There is nothing preventing artworks created through digital media from becoming accepted by art institutions, and we certainly see enough examples of this today”, Nora tells us. The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, a primary art institution, has had several exhibitions featuring augmented reality. “There still seems to be resistance to digital art in some of the more major art institutions which will probably not disappear soon.” But this does not end hope for the future of digital art.
Recently, Christie’s, a famous auction house sold a digitized portrait at nearly 45 times the estimated price only because it was presented as having created by an algorithm and signed by the machine itself. Having been sold at a hefty amount $432.500, projected digital art as highly valuable to some collectors. However, while the art world has already started accepting digital art as high art, the medium has its own challenges. It is easily reproducible and can become obsolete. “While paintings and sculptures also age, they do so at a much slower rate,” says Nora. “This means (museums or collectors) investing in new media arts require a particular kind of foresight, but the same is true for some other kinds of modern art, that are also recognized as high art.”
Nora compares digital art to games. Having visited teamLab’s installation at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, she saw the audience interacting with the installations, making them move and change. “This is very fascinating for some people, but the simplicity of some of these pieces is also a reason why many are not impressed with this kind of exhibition as art, as they view it as something closer to entertainment.”
Others, like Karin Peulen, an artist and teacher of Fine Arts at the Maastricht Academy, see no distinction between any forms of art. Whether digital art or fine art, Karin addresses it from one perspective, and that is a political one. According to Karin, it is difficult to see a future for the arts in Limburg. “It’s not without a reason that right winged politicians almost scream that the arts should disappear,” thinks Karin. “Art is powerful, it wants to be shown, and because of the highly influential people involved in the market, it’s very political.”
In late March, TEFAF exhibited its annual art fair in Maastricht. Originally having started with fine art paintings, TEFAF is now evolving into other sections like TEFAF Modern and TEFAF Design, calling the art-market an eco-system that is ever changing. But Karin doesn’t think the rise in digital art will have any consequences on events like TEFAF. “These events are about making money and power, artists like Anish Kapoor recently change their medium, but that doesn’t mean what they create is no longer art.”
With the current appreciation for digitized art, from both public and the collectors, perhaps it won’t be too long that TEFAF adds a section to its exhibition and calls it TEFAF Digital.
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