So you don't have $76 million to shell out on Damien Hirst's "For the Love of God," the world-famous artist's diamond-encrusted, life-size human skull sculpture. Well, now you can own it for a measly $800. Except it's not the skull itself, but a limited-edition video and a high-resolution still image of it, along with a certificate of authenticity. This Hirst is just one of the offerings at a new online store cleverly called S[edition] Art.
The just-launched site is meant to entice would-be collectors of boldface contemporary art who can't afford the likes of Hirst. Other artists featured on S[edition] Art range from Shepard Fairey to Tracey Emin. You can digitally collect most of the artworks for less than a hundred bucks. Some are priced as low as $8! Try finding that kind of deal at a brick-and-mortar gallery. Everything you "collect" is stored in your "Vault," which is immediately accessible by any connected device via your individual certificate of authenticity.
Still, while the idea is clever, I wonder if this will catch on. Just as many of us mourn the diminished appreciation for physical books, even while recognizing the possibilities of portable devices, I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of owning art — or at least some digital manifestation of it — on my laptop and iPhone.
At the risk of inciting an argument about art not being decoration, I believe that when we display art we love, it becomes part of our home's design and personality, even though we also respect it as "Art." Can a digital format provide that same feeling of physical presence?
Maybe. I know many contemporary collectors who love video art and have dedicated screens in their home to display it. It's no less art to them than paintings and sculptures. That's sort of how this works. If you buy the Hirst edition, you can display it on your home TV and take pride in the fact that you share that privilege with only 1,999 other people.
Image: Damien Hirst image from S[edition] Art