Is There a Market for Digital Art? Phillips Is Partnering With Daata Editions to Find Out

The companies are commissioning two new digital works of art, which will go on view at the auction house in April.

Still from Puck Verkade’s LUCY LIVE / CHANNEL 4. Courtesy of Daata Editions.

This spring, Daata Editions, an online platform for digital art, is partnering with Phillips auction house to commission two new digital artworks, both of which will be exhibited at Phillips in April, alongside previous Daata projects.

It’s a curious fit, in some ways, a digital media platform partnering with a major auction house. Yet both parties share a common goal: developing a legitimate market for digital art. Since it was founded in 2015, Daata Editions has commissioned sound, video, poetry, and other works by artists including Jacolby Satterwhite, Rachel Maclean, and Amalia Ulman. Most works are editioned and available at a very affordable price (usually under $500), while others are free to download.  

David Gryn, founder of Daata Editions. Courtesy of Daata Editions.

“It’s not about avarice, it’s about how do you kick off the larger conversation,” says Daata Editions founder David Gryn, a curator who has worked in new media for more than 20 years, including eight years curating Film and Sound projects at Art Basel Miami Beach. “There’s always been interest in how do you nurture the market players to feel enabled to show the media that is made by artists who work in that medium. The auction house has an audience of people who passionately collect art and buy it. That’s a way of taking the conversation to a different stage. We need to develop a marketplace for digital art, one where artists can make a living as they do in other areas of the art world.”

Installation view of PADDLES ON!, 2013. Courtesy of Phillips.

For Phillips, this is the latest in a series of engagements with the digital sphere. “Being immersed in the art and tech scene, the question that kept arising on panel discussions and elsewhere was: Is digital art ever going to make money? Is it ever going to be offered in the traditional commercial space?” asks Megan Newcome, who became Phillips’s director of digital strategy in 2011. “And I thought, ‘Well I work at a so-called traditional space. I wonder if there’s something we can do to bring attention to artists who are making this kind of work.’”

Megan Newcome, director of digital strategy at Phillips. Courtesy of Phillips.

In 2013, Phillips collaborated with Tumblr to produce PADDLES ON!, the first major auction to exclusively feature digital art. Three years later, Phillips sponsored “Electronic Superhighway: 2016–1966,” a lauded display of computer and internet art at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, and commissioned a special work by Jonas Lund that was included in the show. The auction house has also supported a number of digital arts initiatives through patronage over the years, including at Rhizome, Eyebeamand Opening Times.

Gryn and Newcome are still finalizing the list of projects they want to pursue, but said they were looking for those who represent the “diversity of and inclusivity of the medium.” They plan to announce the artists and projects in early March.

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