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S[edition]: Would You Pay $800 for a Digital Image?

When you can have a Shepard Fairey image on your computer for the cost of a right click, is a company like s[edition] barking up the wrong tree, or ahead of its time?

The new enterprise aims to make art by well-known, high price point artists more accessible to the public by selling limited editions of their works in digital form. Prices start as low as $8.00 and climb as high as $800 and initially offers works from just nine artists: Damien Hirst, Shepard Fairey, Tracey Emin, Wim Wenders, Mat Collishaw, Michael Craig-Martin, Isaac Julien, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, and Bill Viola.

Each work comes with a "Certificate of Authenticity" and is locked in a password protected "vault."

The "limited edition" construct seems doubly artificial, and so much more transparently an exercise in created scarcity, when we enter the digital realm, as anyone who's used their computer's copy and paste feature well knows. Yet that still doesn't undermine the value of art, the importance of compensating artists for their work, or value of making art ownership more accessible.

Of course, limited editions are all about enabling the art collector to say, "I have this and you don't." And what is art collecting with the attached hallmarks of privilege and status removed? S[edition] seeks to democratize art collecting while simultaneously maintaining its air of exclusivity -- you have to register to even browse the works offered. It's a difficult line to walk, and would many people want to pay up to $800 for something they could only look at on their phone, iPad or TV?

There's the rub. But while s[edition] is now out ahead of the technological curve, it may soon catch up to them. Samsung is already forging ahead with plans to marked "digital canvases" -- high-resolution LCD screens created solely for the purpose of displaying art. Once the digital canvas becomes as ubiquitous as the flat screen TV, the concept of digital art ownership may seem a lot less far fetched.

Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.


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