With a background in art history, archaeology and psychology, Annette Doms is a specialist in Digital Art history and market. Her activity as curator and art historian, successively took on several directions: the constitution of an agency for art market solutions (ICAA) and the UNPAINTED art fair. This has been the first art fair specialised in Media Art, of which Annette Doms is co-founder and art director. UNPAINTED intend to be a platform for the promotion and support of Media Art, creating a context where artists, curators and gallerists can meet, and at the same time, this fair is exposing highly relevant contents to the general public.
In comparison with other large and generalist art fair, UNPAINTED still has a relatively small size, but even with some difficulties, it is continuing to pursue its objectives, demonstrating how the Media Art sector is continuously evolving. The entire work of Annette Doms is central to understand the dynamics of the art market of this specific field. She has been part of the Media Art and Art Market symposium that took place in Linz in October 2016, with an intervention about the promotion of Media Art, she brought the example of the UNPAINTED art fair to show how its development as an idea became a business model for Media Art. Moreover, Doms is concerned about how the new technologies deeply influenced the art world opening new possibilities. However, she seems necessary to rethink some of the usual criteria in which art has always been evaluated and collected.
Annette Doms: In fact, very much is happening in the area of digitalisation. The online art market may still merely be playing a supporting role when viewed in terms of the overall market for art. Studies nonetheless show that the digitalisation of the market has increased significantly. Many collectors and galleries confirm, for example, that they regularly buy and sell art solely on the basis of a digital image – providing that they know the artist. Those new to the art world often regard that market as elitist and find it difficult to enter. That is why many of them welcome the chance to discover art on the net, and see that approach as a viable alternative. For them, and for online buyers under the age of 35, online platforms can often act as an entry point that makes it easier to begin a collection; their importance shouldn’t be underestimated. Painting is the art form that is most often purchased online, followed closely by artists’ prints and photography.
Buying patterns and motives for the purchase of art will continue to change. The influence of social networks (in the art sector, particularly Facebook and Instagram) should not be underestimated. In any case, the significant growth of online purchasing is sure to generate new ideas and platforms. The coming years will show who will be able to keep up with the changes and who will be left behind.
Alessio Chierico: How have the advent of digital technologies changed the art world from a market perspective? And how have they altered artistic practices?
Annette Doms: I have already discussed the change in the the market perspective. As I mentioned in Linz, I am an art historian, and for me art history means innovation! It deals with the most innovative ideas and products that there are. After all, the art that is historically relevant has always reacted to new techniques and world views. At present, an important one is digitalisation. Currently, we are surrounded by data, signals and sensors that record, save and change our lives. This all leads to new directions in art, which is why we are here today. So, producing media art is totally normal. Artistic practices have not changed, but the content of art has undergone alterations, and the nature of the artworks has also changed (e.g. Internet Art).
Alessio Chierico: What, in your opinion, is the main issue that is currently limiting the expansion of Media Art in the art market?
Annette Doms: The main issue is that the nature of collecting art has to be rethought. Special rights and obligations are associated with the ownership of new media art, and that means that the owner has greater responsibility. There is, however, still no robust legal, financial, productional, and technological infrastructure that would enable that kind of art to assume its proper place in art history. But the procedure for buying media art is the same as that for traditional art forms: For example: in 2014 I bought a website by Rafael Rozendaal: http://www.everythingalwayseverywhere.com in a Paris-based gallery, which is a totally normal procedure, and I have a license contract with RR. I am therefore the owner of the domain; what is new, is that I have the rights and duties that are associated with it. For instance, I have to make sure, that the work is always online, so if technology changes (browsers, etc.), I have to undertake the appropriate alterations.
Alessio Chierico: In Media Art there are a large number of diversified approaches, techniques, intents and expectations. Have you identified some specific “subcategories” which are especially suitable for the art market?
Annette Doms: For me, Medial Art means the art that people have been creating since the first computers were switched on – art that either reacts to the technology itself in terms of hardware or software, or indirectly, by dealing with the issues and concerns of the new technology: algorithmic plotter-drawings, computer animation, collages, photography, net-art, software art, smartphone-art, tablet-art, interactive art, sculpture, etc.
Digital artists are doing the very same thing that artists did in previous times. They are working with the tools that are available to them. Today, innovative technologies are opening up new possibilities for artistic creativity. Currently, the art production which is influenced by new technologies shows a clear reaction to the changing times. Artworks are being created which react to digitalisation, even if they are not in a digital format (e.g. works of Aram Bartholl). But yes, there are many works of so-called Post-Internet-Art that seem to be “more suitable” for the art-market than most of the other ones.
Alessio Chierico: You are the co-founder and artistic director of UNPAINTED fair. Where does this idea comes from? How did it develop over the years?
Annette Doms: The idea was first manifested in 2008, when Johannes Vogt and I founded an association called FUTURA ART (www. futura-art.com – the page is still online:-). You can find its mission statement at: http://www.futura-art.com/index.php#en It was an exciting time; we were entirely convinced of the idea, but with the wisdom of hindsight we now know that it was too early to realise it. We were unable to find either an investor or any official / institutional support back then. After that, Johannes moved to New York and never came back.. I was alone with my daughter in Munich. So, we had other things to deal with.
Then, at the beginning of 2013 some fair organisers came to me and asked me if I could organise a Contemporary Art Fair in Munich. I told them that I could, but that it wouldn’t make sense to organise a normal art fair, because there already were so many of them. Finally, I told them about my idea of a fair featuring works dedicated to digitalisation, and they eagerly accepted it. It was the right time to do it. Of course, that was not easy to arrange, because there is only a handful of galleries that deal with that kind of art, and they did not know us. But I visited them all personally and they found the idea interesting. From the very beginning I strongly emphasised education aspects. It was important for me to start from the beginning of this art form, so I asked Wolf Lieser of DAM Berlin to curate a section with some historical works by Frider Nake, Manfred Mohr, Vera Molnar, etc. We also invited a number of experts to share their knowledge by holding talks (https://vimeo.com/85662241 https://vimeo.com/82544572, among others) They all came to Munich (Lindsay Howard, Megan Newcome, Dave Harper, Hampus Lindwall, Alain Servais, etc.). Li Zhenhua curated the artist’s section; it was also new to have a fair with both galleries and self-organised artists… That gave us an opportunity to discuss the subject with the main experts and to show really great works from galleries located all over the world. Nevertheless, the future of UNPAINTED is still insecure.
Alessio Chierico: Are there any practical requirements that art collectors insist on as a precondition for acquiring Media Art works?
Annette Doms: Some collectors maintain that the way the current system goes about producing, distributing, and monetising this art form is flawed to the point of endangering the development of media art. And as I mentioned before, there is no robust legal, financial, productional, and technological infrastructure in place that would enable it to assume the place in art history that it deserves. There is a great need for more standardisation, and I suppose that a number of professionals will be striving to realise it in the years to come.