This week a version of The Scream painting by Edvard Munch sold for $119 million at Sotheby’s Auction House New York to an anonymous buyer, breaking all previous records but more importantly rendering it unattainable by most public collections. Scribbled on this version was a poem by Munch:
“I was walking along a path with two friends, the sun was setting, suddenly the sky turned blood red, I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence, there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city, my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety, and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
This scream which has become so synonymous with the chaotic upheavals of modern life, has now gained greater resonance in our financially unstable world simply because a work of art can fetch such high prices when the money could have simply been put to better use. Art has long been one of the most shamefully obscene unregulated markets in the world.
The prices driven up by in house betting, tactical lending and tours, initiated and propagated by none other than the galleries and greedy owners looking to up the prices, whilst the larger public is often denied access and opportunity to experience them fully. In such markets, with such high prices, museums and public collections simply cannot compete.
However it is not all doom and gloom. There is a glimmer of hope in the horizon, and it is by the artists choosing to fight back. The new generation of artists seem to have realized that money alone cannot dictate their lives and art.
Most artists graduating from art schools around the country will not get to show at the glitzy glamorous gallery downtown, and so they get unrelated jobs and work on their art with freedom away from market demand. And the results are astonishing in creativity and beauty.
Lack of supplies and exhibition spaces have driven artists online where they are fast establishing themselves on social networks and communities, and what is important about this movement is the fact that it is on a global scale. An artist can create, modify, enhance, publish, exhibit and market his or her artwork using only digital media.
This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by older traditional artists; David Hockney exhibited iPad paintings this year, and even went as far as painting the portrait of the Physicist Stephen Hawking on an iPad. Jeff Koons uses digital media to create his paintings on a computer first which are then painted onto canvas by his assistants. The art patron Saatchi, who was responsible for the rise of Damien Hirst, now encourages artists to exhibit their work on his online gallery. Google Art Project has brought the Street View technology to famous Museums and Galleries from around the world, with breathtakingly lifelike high resolution photographs of the great masterpieces. Technology is changing the art world in ways unprecedented and it is all thanks to digital media.
You might ask what the future holds? To that I answer Digitalism as the new ism in Art.
The significance of creating an artwork digitally and sharing it via the internet is the fact that the artwork you get to experience on your screen at home is an original and not a reproduction, because it has been created by the same technology. What is happening here is the opportunity for a global viewing of an artwork in a very cost effective manner.
David Hockney’s Painting created on an iPad and shared on The Guardian online website is an original enjoyed by millions for free. Photography, once flooding the online market by becoming digital, is now playing catch up to art with creations like Instagram aiming to make your photographs more artistic.
Painting isn’t dead, it has evolved with a new medium, and now is more available than ever. It is time for the established art organizations to take notice of Digitalism and acknowledge it as one of the most revolutionary, significant movements of contemporary times. Auctions for digital art have already begun and the Digital Art category on ebay is the living proof.