Digital art is captivating, provocative and out of the ordinary, but is it profitable? Even though some people are eager to spend millions of dollars to acquire fine art pieces from auction houses,
it is hard to imagine spending this kind of money and walking away with only a GIF or JPEG file. Nevertheless, demand for digital art continues to grow and even though it has a long ways to go before it reaches the steep price tags seen in the contemporary art marketplace, Phillips auction house recently proved that people are willing to pay big bucks for digital works of art.
Phillips art auction house, in partnership with blogging platform Tumblr and online art auction house Paddle8, recently put on an event called, “Paddles ON! The world’s first major commercial auction of work by digital artists.” On the Tumblr site, Paddles ON! is described as an exhibition and auction that brings together artists who are using digital technologies to establish the next generation of contemporary art.
The auction was a success. It drew a large audience and brought in nearly one-hundred thousand dollars in sales. According to an article in Complex Art+Design, some of the high sellers included:
- $16,000 – Aymmetric Love Number 2, an angular chandelier made of security cameras
- $15,000 – Pixel, a wall sculpture
- $11,000 – Americans!, a software-drive animation
Seeing the profitable nature of digital art was not only exciting for the sellers. For Phillips auction house and others involved with Paddles ON!, it marked a defining moment in the evolution of contemporary art. Auction curator Lindsay Howard says, “For 20 years it’s been universities and non-profit organizations that have been the primary support system for digital art.” With great enthusiasm and high earnings, it is believed that the for-profit auction may be another place where digital artists can go to display and sell their work.
It looks like a new day is dawning for digital artists, as well as Phillips auction house. Phillips, which was founded by Harry Phillips who once served as senior clerk to James Christie of Christie’s auction house, is well positioned to dominate the digital art market. Being smaller than Christie’s and Sotheby’s allows Phillips to take on the risk of selling digital art. From the success of this first auction, it seems hosting digital artwork could come with great reward.
The future of digital art sales is uncertain but Phillips and Tumblr will continue to paddle on. The art auction goes to London next.
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