Image credit: Olafur Eliasson, WUNDERKAMMER, 2020. Image courtesy Olafur Eliasson and Acute Art.

‘Technology is reshaping distribution flows and the way people connect with artworks, as well as how artists develop their practice,’ says Ben Vickers, the CTO of London’s Serpentine Galleries, reflecting on the transformative impact of technology on art and the art market.

One trend Vickers identifies is the ‘removal of gatekeepers’: ‘Who decides what is of value and what can build an audience is shifting dramatically’. He references Team Lab, ‘an interdisciplinary collective of 600 artists who have opened their own museum, Borderless, in Japan, which has become the most-visited individual artist museum’. The model, he continues, ‘presents a disruptive trajectory, where artists are going directly to their audiences’. He draws parallels with ‘stacks’ – the fully integrated organising structures adopted by technology companies, which help to develop their activities.

New approaches to artistic creation mean ‘the notion of authorship is shifting’, adds Vickers. With these new art forms, ‘the diverse range of skills required to develop these hugely ambitious, technical projects means we’re moving from the individual artist to a team formation that is more akin to a Hollywood production, or video game production’. He believes the latter is ‘crucially important’: ‘the software used to develop video game engines is becoming an interface technology for other areas of innovation across industries, whether it’s blockchain or AI, and many artists are using these platforms’.

Vickers’ comments are echoed by Digital Strategist JiaJia Fei, who envisages ‘exciting’ developments in the way art is made and consumed: ‘paintings exist because there are walls […] I think we’ve only just begun to explore the possibility of the screen as the new interface for culture’.

Technology is also enhancing transparency in the art market. Sophie Perceval and Olivier Berger are the co-founders of Wondeur AI, which uses AI and data to examine value creation and bias in the art industry. Together, they have mapped the journey of artworks created since 1920 through 28,000 museums and galleries, assessing the institutions’ impact on their cultural and financial value. ‘Many people say mega galleries make the market, but that’s not what the data says,’ says Perceval. The tool has also highlighted the extent of bias around gender and cultural backgrounds.

Elsewhere, new types of art are inspiring alternative approaches to collecting, explains Jacob de Geer, the founder of Acute Art, which collaborates with artists to create works in virtual and augmented reality. The Acute Art App allows users to collect AR artworks that can be placed ‘anywhere’ using a mobile phone. De Geer anticipates ‘low fee, pay-per-view’ models could emerge for VR artworks, citing Spotify and Netflix as equivalents for music and film.

De Geer believes the desire to collect physical artworks will remain ‘a very primal thing’. ‘I don’t think [new technology] is replacing anything – rather, it’s adding something that’s not there already. It’s bringing alive a lot of possibilities’.

Listen to the conversation in full on The Bulletin with UBS, a podcast from Monocle.

July 2020