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Art In the Digital Realm

During the past Stockholm Art Week in April, Peroni Sweden gathered a panel to speak on the topic of the ongoing digitalization of art. We summoned the panel to address a few of the questions and points that were raised.

Stefanie Hessler, curator Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Wien and co-director Andquestionmark

C-P: What would you say is trending in contemporary art right now?

S.F: I think some of the most interesting art today is challenging traditional dichotomies. The lines get blurred between inside and outside, north and south, digital and analogue. For example, some artists attempt to completely merge virtual and "real" worlds, producing work that is extremely relevant for today.

C-P: What shift has the ongoing digitalization created in terms of the role of the artist?

S.F: The digitization has added new tools to the repertoire of what artists work with, and new subjects for investigation. Artists like Ian Cheng are creating works that emerge and adapt, they constantly change through code. As for the role of artists, it remains to be seen if and how it changes – as with any new addition to the diversity of artistic media.

C-P: What do you see as a few of the challenges posed in the art market in the digital era?

S.F: Presence and acceleration seem to be two keywords. Information is easily available, and it travels and changes faster than before. File formats become obsolete quicker and the question is whether and how digital work will be preserved. To me these are more interesting questions than the monetary aspect of the art market.

Image: Romeo Mori

Karolina Modig, journalist Svenska Dagbladet and author of ”Värdet av konst” (2013) and ”Häng konsten lågt” (2015)

C-P: What's trending in contemporary art today?

K.M: On the one hand we see an exploration (the usual art-kind-of-way) of digital opportunities – highlighting and commenting on contemporary phenomena; how we communicate, what we say and are interested in, structures etc. Artists are using technology in new ways but are at the same time questioning the role technology has come to play in our lives.

On the other hand, there is some kind of backlash to the digital progress going on, shown in a renewed interest in handicraft. Limited graphic editions are becoming trendy again, painting, sculpture; art forms where you can see and sense the physical material and the capacity of the hand.

C-P: What shift has the ongoing digitalization created in terms of the role of the artitst?

K.M: The artists become more independent toward galleries and other intermediaries, as there are new ways to promote oneself through Instagram and other social media. At the same time, they become more dependent on their own marketing skills. Instagram is a big marketing tool, successful for those who create art that work aesthetically on small screens. The platform is international rather than national, which may bring more possibilities art market- and contact-wise, though it may also require a higher level of professionalism from the artists themselves.

C-P: What do you see as a few of the challenges posed in the art market in the digital era?

K.M: The art market is shifting towards more digital commerce, auction houses that focus solely on digital sales dubbled their sales last year and traditional players like Sothebys and Christies are constantly increasing their online deals.

I guess there is a question about whether the growth in the online art market is threatening the traditional market, or if it rather creates new paths reaching out to new buyers, resulting in an extension of the market as a whole. There is also insecurity among galleries and other traditional players on how to deal with the new digital rules and players (e.g. digital marketing masters) entering the scene, ”stealing" young emerging artists right before the nose of the gallerists.

More art may be consumed by a larger number of potential buyers through online platforms, but it is crucial not to adapt the art to fit esthetically on screens. There might be an even greater need to emphasize the physical experience of the art, to assure the diversity in expressions.

Jonas Lund, contemporary artist

C-P: What is trending in contemporary art right now?

J.L: What’s trending is definitely discussions about what’s trending and on the varying types of hype cycles that aim to inspire and manipulate fleeting value systems, the new, the great, the emerging, the young.

C-P: What shift has the ongoing digitalization created in terms of the role of the artist? J.L: Plenty of listicles and articles about how Instagram is changing the art market. Faster consumption and turnover when it comes to trends, hypes and what's 'relevant'. Oh, and a situation where artists are trained to care about how many likes their Instagram posts generate and some type of qualitative evaluation of their work.

C-P: What do you see as a few of the challenges posed in the art market in the digital era? J.L: I think the challenge is not to confuse quantity with quality and isolate the 'trends' that will last and matter.

Ashik Zaman, editor-in-chief C-print Journal

C-P: What would you say is trending in contemporary art?

A.Z: I think inevitably there will be counter trends stretching away from the ongoing common practice that is scrutiny of how traditional structures are dissolving and the bearings of digitalization, onto (and back to) timelessly universal and earthy matters devoid of technology. An appreciation for work that derives in a very direct fashion from the artist herself and which weighs on informed skill will always be there, setting a precedence of sort, balancing innovation.

C-P: What shift has the ongoing digitalization created in terms of the role of the artist?

A.Z: With the marketing opportunities afforded by the internet and social media, emerging artists and mid-career artists are increasingly running their own PR and marketing machine, taking a greater command of their own careers. The idea that gallery and artist representation solves “everything” and continuously opens new doors for a working artist is one that is very skewed in reality. An artistc career is one of ebb and flow, with a continuous need to create opportunities for oneself. There is a greater expectation from the art audience for artists to be visible and accessible with their work as well as themselves and individuals outside the exhibiting space, for us to be able to find them on say Instagram, the way we expect to find their counterparts in film and music.

While already celebrated and regarded artists might not be as reliant on these channels for exposure, it is fairly often heard of emerging artists gaining serious professional opportunities by their social media presence. A channel like Instagram becomes synonymous with LinkedIn, allowing in theory the access to a very vast network that extends to the entire art community. The genius of Instagram is once you're mutually connected to another on there, there's a very direct link to expose your work on an everyday basis.

C-P: What do you see as a few of the challenges posed in the art market in the digital era?

A.Z: This fast and easy accessibility to information and imagery marks an ongoing democratization of art, reaching out to wider audiences to experience art than before. This obviously creates challenges but also great possibilities for many alike. It is understood that the distributing control of art in the digital realm becomes much more of a public matter; everyone has a hand in it in this sharing culture with presence online and in there lies a collective impact that could be used to come to terms with structural issues in the ecosystem, when it comes to diversity and representation of artistic background and gender.

Photo: Corina Wahlin

Peroni Forum: Art And the www - a panel talk about art ad digitalization took place during Stockholm Art Week on May 20 at Riksarkivet in Stockholm, organized by Peroni Sweden and Studio Bon. Also participating in the panel talk was Olle Lidbom, communications manager at Nordstedts Förlag and media analyst.

A big thank you to Sonja Nettelbladt at Studio Bon.

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