About life in the last third / New Media

I am not a collector


About 30 years ago, I bought my first painting. As a musician (sort of) I was always puzzled about visual art where one copy of a work exists or in the case of photos and prints, as small series. With music, the more people that have a copy of a work, the more successful one is. But with visual art, success is kind of linked to the resale value of a work (and positive critical review). People that acquire visual art are called collectors. But people with a large library of music are generally known as music lovers. Visual art takes up a lot of room. Music takes up very little room and now with digital distribution it takes up no room (I am a big fan of Rhapsody). I once visited the home of a senior executive at a major media company. This man was an art collector. His house was filled with wonderful and very valuable art. I told him that I had been buying art but there were almost no suitable wall space left in my house. I asked him what he did when he got in that situation and he said, “it is easy, you just buy a bigger house”. Over the years I bought more art. I did not know and still do not know much about art or artists. I just bought pieces I loved but also integrated well within the space I had for them. Being the businessman that I was, I always gave some thought for the value of the art that I bought and have been good at negotiating discounts from art dealers who normally have a very high mark up. My wife (I can’t mention her name because her goal is to be the last person you cannot find via Google), loves visual art at lot and actually as a graduate of an art school, knows a lot about it. So we sometimes visit galleries. About four years ago, we randomly walked by a gallery in Chelsea NYC, and I saw a piece that really drew me to it. It was “The Flood” by Barry Frydlender.The Flood Not only did I love it but I was fascinated to learn about how Frydlender created it using hundreds of digital images taken from the same place at different times. I did not realize that you could actually create art with Photoshop. I bought that this piece for what I thought was a lot of money but since then Frydlender has gotten a lot of recognition including a show at the MOMA in NYC. His work has gone up a lot in value and I would not feel comfortable spending that kind of money for art now. I ended up over the years buy three more works of Israeli photographers. Recently, I was asked if I would lend these four works to the Magnes Museum for as six month show they were putting on of Israeli artists in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Israel. I agreed of course having had some guilt for a while that so few people could actually see the art that I own. My wife and I went to the opening of this show and then to a reception. People kept coming up to us and saying, “when did you start becoming a collector” or things like that. I guess it was meant as a compliment. Being a collector must be some kind of status symbol. I wanted to scream “I am not a collector” and run. I guess when anything is in a limited supply those that buy these items an be called collectors. But what about the digital word. I have a friend (btw he is almost 70 year old). He discovered bit torrent and how you download music and videos for the net for free (pirate). He has been building up a vast library of films and feeling hard disk after hard disk with them. Would he be called a collector of films? At the same show where my photos are being shown is an Israeli performance arts named Sigalit Landau. Her work is recorded and sold on DVD. I loved this work which I saw briefly at a lecture at the opening. So I looked it up and it is sold as an addition of nine. That means there are only nine DVD’s. Obviously, if you make nine you can make nine hundred or nine thousand. It makes some sense that there might be a limit on the productions of various visual art works that actually have a physical component. For instance, “The Flood” is a very big piece and hard and expensive to reproduce. But limiting the production of a DVD is totally artificial. The buyer is paying for scarcity. The buyer is paying so that someone else cannot have the work. I wonder how long this business model will last. Yes, Sigalit needs to earn money or her work but what will keep someone from ripping the DVD and putting it up on the Net. So will Sigalit who often performs in the nude have to look or advertising as away to earn money. Will we see her up on YouTube with an add across her naked body? What will be the business model or art when art is digital? And what will happen to the collectors

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