Artist editions are hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, with the emergence of internet-based dealers, there has been a huge increase in the number of sites dedicated to making work by well-known contemporary artists available to the masses such as Jen Bekman’s 20×200 and Exhibition A. When we first heard about s[edition], a new site established by Robert Norton and Harry Blain, a former director of the wildly successful Haunch of Venison gallery, we assumed that it was yet another site clamouring to enter this highly lucrative market. What we didn’t realize was that s[edition] represents an innovative concept, one that has the potential to transform how we think about the buying and selling of art, and even the nature of art itself.
At a time when the creation and spread of images has never been easier, and our experience of art is often shaped by photographs available online, s[edition] is proposing that the ownership of a work of art need not be manifest in the possession of a physical object or a framed work hanging on a wall. Instead, s[edition] has available for sale limited edition digital artworks – works that exist only in the “digital vault” of the purchaser – downloadable to their hard drives, iPads and iPhones and displayed only on these devices. We were initially skeptics, believing the idea to be a clever marketing strategy designed to seduce us through the promise of affordable works by such contemporary art luminaries as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Isaac Julien, take our money, and provide essentially nothing in return. After a more considered evaluation of their concept, not to mention admiring their aesthetically pleasing and well-designed site, we were sold and are now eager to set up our own vaults and begin collecting!
With the evolution of technology over the past decade, the number of artists working in digital media has increased dramatically and it is no longer considered unusual for artwork to exist solely as digital files to be displayed on monitors. With artists like David Hockney now creating works on and for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, it seems fitting for online galleries to emerge that only sell work in digital forms. While dealers have been selling digital art for years, s[edition] makes it possible to purchase both still and moving images online, and at an accessible price point.
What we love most about s[edition] is that it offers covetable work by an extremely selective roster of artists. Part online gallery, part social networking site, part marketplace, s[edition] allows members to follow artists, send each other messages and broadcast their purchases to the world via facebook, and will eventually permit owners to sell their works once an edition is sold out. s[edition] has created an entirely new breed of art collector – the digital collector.