Art and technology have influenced each other as far back as the Great Pyramids. More recently, “digital art” is expanding its footprint within the art world.
The evolution to embrace modern digital art has translated to some jaw-dropping auction prices. This is perhaps most evident in the sale of Beeple’s digital photo collage, “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS,” which sold for $69 million in a March auction at Christie’s. This artistic work is an NFT, a nonfungible token, verifying its authenticity by using blockchain technology. Such technology will build confidence among collectors with safeguards such as preventing duplication of records.
“There’s nothing new about evolving artists embracing technology to create innovative, relevant works of art, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the process is speeding up”, believes Karen McCleave, who is a member of the board of trustees for the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
She adds, “The potential for fresh artistic expression through the use of new technology appears endless. The examples are all around us. Younger artists who grew up with technology embedded in their lives naturally turn to it for the expansive options to create in new forms.”
New programs like Artweaver, Photoshop, and others are revolutionizing how artists can reflect their vision. Adobe offers artists the tools to make digital art using its Creative Cloud.
These tools can enable artists to support themselves exclusively through digital art and open the possibility to have art with “infinite space”, as they are no longer limited by a finite canvas.
These are the kinds of big ideas that digital artists have begun exploring, McCleave said.
“Beeple’s work is an example of how contemporary artists can use technology to explore new frontiers of what art can be. His work challenges our conceptions of time and the perceived lifespan of a specific work of art. Fixed or fluid?”
Printing in 3D and laser cutting have changed the landscape of art, too. Even a video game console such as Xbox’s Kinect has a digitized art platform. The development of green screens has changed the way movies are filmed and produced, in allowing selected background images to be added behind actors.
Technology is changing the way art is taught and studied. Digital portfolios and downloadable apps have caused changes even for the K-12 demographic. At colleges, some professors now equip their classrooms with virtual reality simulations that let students produce brilliant, digital art.
Beyond the classrooms, it is those who embrace a life-long vocation of creation who will especially benefit from these advances in technology. Art has become a more participatory and interactive experience. This is exemplified in dazzling works that can only be experienced in animations. Artists can now conceive immersive atmospheres to be explored within entire rooms.
“It is clear to me we are moving fast into a digitally native world. For the younger generations, I would argue digital items are of even more importance than physical ones — kids prefer a skin in a game to new sneakers,” Miami-based digital art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile told ABC News.
As much as digital innovations have improved artists’ abilities to find expression in new ways, and then reach wider audiences, the advancement of technology in art does present some challenges.
For one, it has increased the audience’s expectations, particularly for live performance art. It was predicted in 2013 that the desire for a wholly positive immersive experience would increase over the next 10 years. Has that happened? In a word, yes, but can such expectations be met for ever-discerning audiences? Ultimately, is it all entertainment?
In addition, while the issue of forgeries in the traditional art world has always been present, digital art presents new dimensions of concern, including duplication and valuation.
A report compiled by Culture Track during the pandemic reveals that culture and the arts have “a community mandate” from the public at large “to become more active participants in their communities.”
As the world re-opens, post-pandemic, look for further exciting and innovative applications of visual art to surface and attract a new generation of collectors eager to embrace this growing wave.