In a recent survey by art industry analysts ArtTactic (conducted for art insurers Hiscox), 64% of contemporary art collectors reported having made the decision to purchase an artwork from digital images before actually seeing the artwork in person. While the survey’s report concedes, “Whether all areas of the art world will embrace online trading remains to be seen,” the findings have nonetheless been interpreted in a wide variety of ways: from “Contemporary art collectors are increasingly skipping the first-hand physical experience of viewing art in galleries, and buying ‘sight unseen’ through internet images” to “the online art trade will grow exponentially within the next five years.”
Winkleman Gallery is also very excited about the reach that digital opportunities offer to promote our artists outside the gallery space itself, but we’re a bit skeptical that the rise in the number of collectors who have purchased some art from JPEGs indicates any dramatic impact for the future of “the physical experience.” Rather, we’re convinced the secret to success in the digital age lies in finding the right balance between online presentations and those in person. It is with finding that balance in mind, as well as having a little summer fun, that we present “Send Me the JPEG,” a summer group show opening June 27, 6-8 pm and running through August 2, 2013.
“Send Me the JPEG” will showcase works from gallery artists, including Cathy Begien, Janet Biggs, Jimbo Blachly, Jennifer Dalton, Rory Donaldson, Chris Dorland, Yevgeniy Fiks, Joy Garnett, Ulrich Gebert, Shane Hope, Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev, The Chadwicks, Leslie Thornton and Andy Yoder. However, no actual works of art will be on view. Rather digital images of the works will be displayed on large flat-screen monitors. The original artworks in the exhibition run the gamut, from room-sized installations to performance-based interventions, from paintings to prints, from sculpture to photographs. Everything except video, which ironically most online channels are still struggling with.
Obviously, this is a fantasy group exhibition. We could never actually present all these works in our space at the same time. The ability to “present” larger works or more works than our physical space permits is one of the advantages of online presentations. Among the limitations, however, is the ability to effectively communicate an artist’s carefully considered, site-determined decisions, or textures, or the impact of scale, or visual subtleties, or…etc. etc.
In short, “Send Me the JPEG” seeks to question what is gained and what is lost in this new era of collecting. The increase in accessibility and the flow of information has eliminated the formerly formidable geographic obstacles that made it difficult to disseminate images and ideas. An attendant rise in the amount of capital being devoted to the production and display of contemporary art has made it possible for more artists than ever before to exist. These have to be seen as positive. By the same token, the basic relationship between viewer and object has been fractured. Indeed, in this new order, the way a work looks in a photograph (even if it is itself a photograph) trumps all other concerns, which has affected what is made, as well as how it is contextualized. “Disruptive technology” is well named, and one must adapt. Ultimately, though, we trust that “Send Me the JPEG” is an argument that there still is value in experiencing new work in person.