With the rise of digital art in recent years, artists and art collectors are forced to face an apparent issue; how do we display our valuable art? What is the point of owning these art pieces if you’re not able to experience them, whether it is in a private space or a museum? Scrolling through your digital art collection on your phone doesn’t seem to have the same effect as seeing it thoughtfully displayed in a perfectly picked-out place. For this reason, as art collectors expand their digital art portfolio, there is an increasing need to solve this problem. It is impossible to talk about digital art without talking about NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which have taken the art market by storm. Last year NFTs made up 16% of the world’s total art market value and were worth $2.8 billion in sales. What makes NFTs so valuable in the digital art world? Since NFTs are stored on the blockchain their ownership and authenticity are clearly defined, facilitating the selling process. This is particularly relevant since before NFTs digital artworks held little to no value. Their authenticity could not be guaranteed, and the ownership was vague and oftentimes impossible to determine. Since NFTs have solved these problems, an increasing number of reputable artists are looking to explore this medium, and more collectors are looking to invest in the digital arts. For this reason, exploring the question of how to display digital art becomes increasingly significant in the art world.
One clear path of exhibiting digital artworks that many museums and galleries are starting to use is the metaverse. Increasingly more museums are inaugurating their digital exhibitions on the metaverse. For example, König Galerie has bought a parcel of land on a metaverse to set up its “König Digital” virtual gallery while Unit Gallery has set up its own metaverse to display a curated exhibition called “NFTism: No Fear in Trying” featuring various international artists. What makes this form of display so great is that the metaverse allows one to have an embodied virtual experience. Curators have complete freedom to create abstract and meaningful spaces to display the different artworks. These exhibitions are often interactive with the artwork itself and involve multi-sensory experiences such as sounds that change as you move from one artwork to another. In other words, imagination is the limit when it comes to designing digital galleries in the metaverse. In terms of accessibility, these galleries allow anyone from anywhere in the world to access them as long as they have an internet connection. This goes for private individuals as well, that with the help of new platforms they can curate their digital gallery to show off their NFT collections to the world. This illustrates a great aspect of digital art; it is a more inclusive space than the traditional art world as it breaks down barriers to creating, experiencing, and owning fine art for many individuals.
Another possibility of displaying digital artworks is by recreating or projecting them into the physical world. This is particularly relevant for private individuals that wish to display and enjoy their digital art collection at home. Displaying artworks on tv screens or digital picture frames seems to take away from the experience of the artwork so collectors seek out other options. There are increasingly more startups looking to solve the problem for digital art artists and owners. Startups such as Infinite Objects aim to provide a high-resolution display on which you can “print” your digital art videos. These displays are designed considering the aesthetics and their sole purpose is to permanently loop one video. The device requires no buttons, no connectivity, and no updates. This is a great way for digital art collectors to experience and interact with their pieces in their everyday living environment. These formats provide a familiar way to witness art as the device becomes the physical art medium itself.
As exciting as this new digital art movement is, there is an important consideration, the environmental impact of digital art and its displaying. We will analyze this by looking at the environmental impact of NFTs. Minting NFTs, that is creating them, as well as transferring them from one account or person to another is a very energy-intensive process. This contributes to a significant environmental impact that cannot be ignored. On the other hand, many people argue that although the NFT creation and transferring are very energy consuming, it produces a lot less waste than other physical works, collectibles, and decor. As we move towards a more digital life, the physical items could hold less value which could lead to a reduction in physical consumption. This means less purchasing of items that are later going to be littered, be discarded, and linger around in our oceans for centuries. However, from this point of view, displaying our digital artwork in our physical surroundings defeats the purpose of living a more minimalist physical life. Not only are we accumulating hardware to display our artworks but there is also additional energy consumption that comes along with continuously displaying the artwork. For this reason, many private digital art collectors choose not to exhibit their pieces in their home.
As our lives are becoming more and more digital, we need to understand how our digital assets can interact with our physical existence. For the art world, this may mean learning a new way of experiencing art itself. The digital art movement brings increasing opportunities worldwide as the fine arts world becomes more accessible for anyone to explore and enjoy. But does the facilitated access to this art make it feel like a less valuable and more commercial experience? One thing is for sure, as the digital art movement advances, technology must keep up to enable this new form of art to be integrated into our lives. There is still a lot to come in the digital art world as it continues to expand, and it will be interesting to keep up further innovations in the way we experience our art.