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Will S[edition] Become the App Store of Digital Art?

Elmgreen & Dragset's "Powerless Structures, Fig. 101" (ed. of 5,000) is one of the works available on the s[edition] digital platform. (GIF'd by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)
Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Powerless Structures, Fig. 101” (ed. of 5,000) is one of the works available on the s[edition] digital platform. (GIF’d by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)
CHICAGO — The stories we experience online, the people we meet, and the information we discover, offer us new ways to fall in love with the image, the autograph, and even the art object. But what of purchasing art that really only does exist on the internet or in a digital format?

Today, a new expanded version of s[edition] launches and it will allow artists working with a wide range of digital technologies, including moving image, motion graphic, photography, generative art, illustration, and design, to be able to upload their work to the s[edition] platform and start selling their works to people around the world.

Founded by Harry Blain, who is also the founder of Blain|Southern, and Robert Norton, former CEO of Saatchi Online, this new site offers people a way to collect limited-edition digital works by well-known blue-chip artists, top-tier digital artists and other artists should they be accepted onto the platform. S[edition] gives the price and edition upfront, acting more like an eBay-type space than other ecommerce sites, like Art.sy or Artspace, which act more like an online white box that asks users to contact the gallery or chat with a specialist to complete the purchase of actual, physical objects. The biggest challenge for s[edition] buyers, though the site prefers to call them collectors, is that the art stays on the platform, offering a walled garden for these digital collections, rather than an open field that digital artists and collectors are more accustomed to.

Angelo Plessas. "Portrait #3." Image via s[edition].
Angelo Plessas. “Portrait #3.” (screencapture via seditionart.com)
Artists who sell work receive 50% commission on works, which is congruent to the artist-dealer rate. Users are also offered $10 to use toward a purchase if they invite their friends to join, too. For artists working in the digital realm, a site like s[edition] could be a major game-changer — if it ends up being profitable. But first an artist must be accepted onto the platform, suggesting the approval process may be more akin to the Apple app store, with it’s rules and guidelines, than anything remotely like the anything goes domain of eBay.

The s[edition] platform also gives artists the opportunity to create profiles, describe artworks, and set their price and edition size. According to the platform, “Artists launch their works by inviting friends, fans and collectors to their exclusive 24-hour online private view, giving them preferential access and pricing.”

“As a digital-based art maker, it is more difficult to retain ownership of works, including single copies for collectors,” says Chicago-based artist James Green. “All of this is happening while you are placing your work on the easily sharable internet for exposure.”

Angelo Plessas. "Portrait #3." Image via s[edition].
Angelo Plessas. “Portrait #3.” (screencapture via seditionart.com)
Theodore Darst, another artist working almost exclusively in the digital space, notes the ongoing monetization problem that digital artists regularly grapple with. Often times when digital artists want to get paid for their work, they start making objects. S[edition] may offer a solution to these common problems if they don’t mind the limitations of mobility.

“I liked that the site’s curators seem to have gone out of their way to include some work by a bunch of first-tier digital artists such as Ryoji Ikeda, Angelo Plessas, and Rafaël Rozendaal to balance out the work by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin that they are promoting as the main draw,” Darst said.

Hubs like Rhizome ArtBase offer an online archive of digital art, but this space functions more like a living museum. It is not a space for sales. Is it time that the art world finally catches up to other evolving digital art spaces, democratizing the art buying process, deleting the middleman, woman or person, and making virtual editions for sale?

Green asks: “If we hold digital collections of music, movies and books, who’s to say we can’t do the same with art?”

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