Paddy Johnson’s Predictions for the Digital Art World in 2015

Jeffrey Deitch will do something stupid.


Photo courtesy iheartneedlework on Etsy.

The above image of a cat in a knitted Viking hat circulated widely during the holiday season, as a potential gift for those wishing to purchase from the independent store owners on Etsy. I post this image not because I think it reflects my 2015 predictions for the digital world, exactly, but because it represents what I’d like to see more of: strange and wonderful new independent voices that bring more to our world when they are heard than when they go undiscovered.

What follows is my list of predictions for the digital art world:

1. The market lives up to the hype: Electric Objects. Electric Objects, a company that manufactures high-quality screens for consumers who are dedicated to showcasing digital images, raised close to $800,000 on Kickstarter in 2014. This product is slated to ship in May 2015, at which point we’ll see whether this apparent market for digital images actually exists. I think we’ll find out that people want to be able to buy and display images on consumer friendly displays. As Jenna Wortham noted in the New York Times back in 2014, if people are willing to buy stand-alone gadgets to help them play music, monitor their health and fitness, and manage their homes, why not this? This could be a game changer for the digital arts, so we’ll be watching them closely.

2. Jeffrey Deitch does something stupid. I don’t know what it will be, but between the MOCA fiasco of 2012 and 2013, and his comparison, in 2014, of Miley Cyrus to Mike Kelley, Deitch has gotten a streak of bad publicity over the past few years that he only seems to be stoking. I don’t see any reason for that to change in 2015. (There’s nothing digital about this prediction, but it’s relevant, because there will be at least a few days out of the year where his statements or shows will pollute our social media feeds.)

3. Digital art gets institutional support. The Whitney’s new Renzo Piano-designed building will finally give the museum the space it needs to start properly investing in digital art. Where it will start is anyone’s guess, but I’ve heard rumors that they are already starting to acquire work. I’d like to see a GIF wallpaper show please.

4. New Inc. takes shape. New Inc. is an incubator that launched in September 2014 with the aim of supporting creatives in the field of art, tech, and design. By early 2015 enough time will have passed for us to see what their first residents are working on. So far, I’ve only been introduced to the incubator project Art Local, a location-based app company run by Sean Green. This venture is purely business—their app allows you to flip through images the same way you might on Tinder (that is, quickly), favorite them, and buy them through the gallery. It reminds users when shows containing art they’ve favorited close and where artists they follow are showing next. Nobody can predict what will fly, but I’ve had this app on my phone for several months, and actually use it. That’s better than I can say for most.

5. The online art bubble grows. As a result of the ongoing process of wealth redistribution—the rich are getting richer, the poor, poorer—luxury markets are booming. Art is no exception. So, while the crash correction could (and should) happen at any time, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year.

I guess it’s going to take a couple of years before these investors figure out that they’re not going to make the fantastic yields they think they will.

6. Stefan Simchowitz stirs shit. This collector, dealer, and social media maverick is heading for more headlines. He’s got a magnetic personality and an ability to attract all manner of drama. We don’t know what the details or deals will be that will create these waves, but where this guy goes, crazy shit flows.

7. Online art companies and major institutions will pour money into cyber security. I’ve borrowed this from investor Fred Wilson’s blog AVC, but it’s applicable in the art world too. Anyone who owns a business—online auction houses, blue chip dealers, and online publications is concerned that what happened with Sony, Chase, or Target could happen to them. And let’s face it—at least a couple of art companies must have been hacked already—even Nasty Nets, an online surf blog founded in 2006 was the subject of an online cyber attack and Art F City has suffered from this as well. No one on the Internet is safe from theft.

8. 20×200 announces they’ve got something up their sleeve. This online purveyor of affordable art has to have something brewing for the coming year. Founder Jen Bekman reinvents herself and her businesses every couple of years. She’s due for something new.

9. Bad Instagram art shows will continue. We’ve got at least another year before the art world realizes that Instagram is over and messaging is in. First up: Ryder Ripp’s Instagram show, “Ho,” which opens at Postmasters in late January.

10. The independent web lives to see another year: In a world where Google, Amazon, and Youtube seem like they do more to crush independently produced material and content than to help us discover it, the independent web will continue to surprise and delight. Why? Because that knitted Viking helmet for cats on Etsy is unique enough that it will always find an audience.

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