written by : Maurice Cardinal
International Artist Day has been celebrated for the last sixteen years on Pablo Picasso’s birthday, October 25th as an homage to artists and all they contribute to society and humanity.
In the early 20th century Picasso dramatically changed how modern art was regarded by society. He brought art to life and popular consciousness.
Artists are often more sensitive than most to traumatic events, and after the liberation of France in 1944, and the death of 75 million people, Picasso said, “I didn’t paint the war, but there’s no doubt the war was in my pictures.”
The pandemic is having a similar effect, except in 2020, news is rolled out in real time 24/7 … and to macro granularity on your phone or large screen.
Mid-pandemic, digital art is taking us into a new cubic space, and introducing collectors to a novel experience that everyone, artists included, only dreamt of a few years ago.
Art is changing rapidly on all levels. The Metropolitan Museum of Art re-opened in the summer to a potential revenue-loss of $150 million. They had to make radical decisions quickly to generate cash flow.
Museums knew long ago that if they had to, curators could sell a small quantity of their of art to stay solvent. Analog museum art is an exclusive platform to trade in art that has been elevated to prices that command millions more than intrinsic worth.
CryptoKitties is building a similar virtual empire using a digital model.
Selling pieces from a museum’s collection is a pragmatic solution, especially considering that many museums and galleries have permanently closed. Laura Lott, President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums said, “about one third of the museums in the U.S. were operating at a loss before the pandemic, three-quarters have now closed, and one third will never re-open”.
Brooklyn Museum is planning to sell a dozen pieces through Christie’s Auction House with a hope to raise $3.5 million for the upkeep of their remaining collection. The pandemic forced sales events like this in a world where it is usually frowned upon because it can put a curator in a compromising position trying to balance salaries with the success of the museum.
The silver lining, is that out of necessity, and becasue of its popularity, more museums and galleries now actively promote digital art installations.
The Contemporary Art world on main street is also suffering, but interestingly, some sectors are seeing record sales through VR, 3D video, GIFs, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain. The digital art stream is working well for some artists, especially those who already have a grasp on the technology.
Digital art is gaining a core following that traditional artists and most galleries wouldn’t even consider a year ago.
Art today is in the middle of a real time paradigm shift that’s creating a virtual divide between traditional and digital artists.
Traditional painters with history and an audience base are still serving a very dedicated analog buyer. The challenge however is that statistically, and except for the top tier, this group has already purchased the bulk of their lifetime collection. At this stage, when Boomers slip into the great hereafter, so too go the collectors and collections. Traditional two-dimensional collections will either be dropped into the market by disinterested surviving relatives, or languish in closets and attics for decades until way-back collectors discover new value in much the same way an old vinyl jazz collection attracts attention. Every now and then a scarce treasure will escape from a dank, dusty basement, but for the most part, they’ll stay hidden and fade away.
Digital art in the fast lane is becoming the commerce core for a new breed of art lover and collector who wants a multilayered experience. Digital collectors want art that can be viewed anywhere there is a screen–large or small. Today, you can carry a million-dollar art collection on your phone, view it easily in high resolution on a friend’s large screen display, and still keep it protected in an immutable blockchain network on the distributed web.
Scarce, original, large format, digital files are the new Warhol retro soup can, and they’re selling for thousands per file and sometimes even millions for shares on the immutable blockchain.
The Holy Grail in the digital art world today is scarcity on a digital continuum. No copies–originals only.
Alina Cohen in an article about Jerry Saltz’s book, How to Be an Artist, wrote “As the physical art world shuts down, even the most extroverted of us must turn inward – and go online”
Saltz said, “Viruses come, viruses go. Art will be here on the other side. It won’t disappear until all the problems it was invented to address, have been addressed.”
Not all pandemics are created equal …
Today, the emotional impact of the 2020 pandemic is different. This muse is stealthy, and slow, and much more deadly. So far in 2020, in America alone, over 254,000 have died of Covid-19 – a world record drenched in morbid irony.
The last world pandemic, 102 years ago, didn’t feel as isolating as today’s trauma. Today, we have social media–a mainline into everyone’s fears and myths that keeps society locked down and hypertensive.
In 1918 – 35 million people died worldwide. It started in the spring, tapered off in the summer, and raged back with a vengeance in the fall taking a heavy toll in just a couple of months – in America, 195,000 died in October alone. Radio was the emergency health network with newspapers delivering details the next day. The internet didn’t exist of course, but amazingly, like today, people then also panicked and rioted over masks, and for exactly the same reasons.
Our 2020 pandemic will leave a scar, and provide inspiration for a generation who now have a real reason to look deeper for the answers to life, and push past millennial angst.
Metaphors and allegorical archetypes are already being spun digitally into art pieces that ebb and glow dynamically. Art is no longer static. Jesus will blink and anoint you from an immutable 3D GIF for a steal at 0.100 ether, or, you can blow your roll at SuperRare … one of my favorites, Tide Routine at $10 grand / 25 Either
Professor Elizabeth Lee wrote a book about the links between artistic production, and health and illness and has an interesting perspective on how pandemics affect artists.
Universities too, like @UVIC in Victoria BC, my area, are preparing fine art students to be adaptive in an art world turned inside out.
In the face of massive shutdowns of art events and galleries, many artists report feeling an existential threat. It causes some to freeze, while others spontaneously combust with new vision.
What does the public want from art mid-pandemic in 2020?
According to Artnet, they want fun, and to return to normal. Who doesn’t?
It’s a good investment in emotional health.