Limited s[edition]

These past weeks, art newspapers and online publications have been aflood with articles such as “How to buy a Damien Hirst for £7.50” , “Would you spend £500 on pixelated art?”, and “Artists Join the Digital Revolution.” At the center of all this questioning and apparent disbelief is s[edition], possibly an artful manoeuvre of the word sedition, which means an insurrection or a rebellion. Nevertheless, true to the definition of their lexical namesake, s[edition] has decided to rebel against is the centuries old tradition of acquiring tangible art.

So just how revolutionary is s[edition]? Revolutionary enough to cause some stir, would be the answer of any auctioneer, accompanied with the resounding knock of a hammer. That is because s[edition] is essentially a new online venture that offers digital limited editions of artworks by leading contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, that can be viewed on a host of equally digital mediums such as laptops, iPhones, iPads, or LCD TVs. Moreover, the prices of these limited editions vary from the joyously affordable sum of $12 dollars to the wait a minute price of $800 dollars.

In a sense, s[edition] is making the work of contemporary artists more affordable and accessible but its hard to overcome of a slight feeling of it being digital chicanery because what you see... is what you see. So what one is really paying for is, at times, just the digital image of an artwork. Since s[edition]’s prices are aimed to woo younger generations, are they genuinely encouraging art appreciation and collection or just creating a whole new market to profit from? Chances are, its a combination of the two, leaving s[edition] ambiguously perched among the notions of accessibility and profit maximization.

While some artworks do seem to lend themselves well to the digital medium, such as Tracey Emin’s I Listen to the Ocean and All I Hear is You or Mat Collishaw’s Whispering Weeds, which incorporate video and audio components, others tend to feel more like a series of static digital reproductions. But then again the price for such editions, like Damien Hirst’s Xylosidase or Bognor Blue, is a mere $12 dollars. The most expensive artwork is a high definition video of Damien Hirst’s bejeweled skull, For Heaven’s Sake, priced at $800 dollars.

With the number of editions ranging from 10,000 to 2,000, should you purchase these digital artworks or more audaciously, make an investment in digital art? Perhaps, because on their website, s[edition] writes, “Once editions are sold out, you can sell your works to other collectors through the s[edition] marketplace launching soon.” So s[edition] is not only looking to create a primary market for digital artwork but also a secondary one. A novel idea indeed, but will it work?

Yes, it could. And it may work solely because, thanks to s[edition], one can now afford to own a Bill Viola or a Shepard Fairey. So even though the Internet is abound with high resolution images of artworks, s[edition] seeks to entice with the covetous concepts of ownership and authenticity. And while the limited editions remain undeniably intangible, one can nevertheless lay claim to a piece of art by a famous contemporary artist. In fact, the innovators and early adopters of the art world are already purchasing these works; some 110 editions of Damien Hirst’s Bognor Blue have already been sold.

However, the early and late majority will only start purchasing these works when they begin to value digital limited editions and become comfortable with paying for what they can only view on luminous digital screens. Then, and only then, will s[edition] truly be able to capitalize on the affordability and accessibility of its business model.

As of now, s[edition] signals a marked step towards the digitization of art, in not only what is represented but the representation itself. Seems like the art world is, after all, responding to the evolution of the touch.