Where The Art World Is Heading In 2019

2018 was a fascinating year for the art world.

On the more traditional side of the space, David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) set a record for a piece sold by a living artist, going for $90.3 million. And the ever reclusive Banksy pulled an elaborate stunt, activating a shredder hidden in the frame of one of his paintings just moments after it was sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s.

There was also intriguing news coming from more cutting-edge areas of the art world.

Take the now-famous example of an AI-generated painting selling for $432,000 at Christie’s. Or the companies that released dapps, like DADA, to make it easier than ever to buy digital art. Meanwhile, at the Blockchain Art Collective, we launched our Certificates of Authenticity for artists looking to create a secure physical-digital link for their works.

All of the progress we’ve made in the past year has set the stage for an exciting and anticipatory 2019, especially as it regards new tech, new mediums, and a burgeoning digital presence.

Here’s what we have to look forward to:

Digital art will see a physical transformation.

The art landscape is changing and mediums are evolving.

There’s been an explosion of digital art in the past year, and we even saw the opening of the world’s first digital art museum in Tokyo. People are more open than ever to the concept of digital art, especially with our new ability to create digital scarcity thanks to blockchain technology.

We’re seeing more experimentation than ever in the digital art space — and not just in its creation.

The way we’ll experience that art may change, as well.

While digital art may seem radically different, the opening of a museum dedicated to it does offer clues to how people may choose to experience it.

For those who view art primarily as an investment opportunity, looking at it on a laptop or phone may suffice. But there is something to be said for viewing art at the appropriate scale. Seeing a piece in a museum or hanging on the wall of a friend’s living room is a different experience than looking at it on your phone.

We’ll see companies working on producing displays that can handle works of digital art because as more people purchase digital art, they’ll want ways to display it in homes, offices, galleries, museums, and art fairs.

More people will see art as vehicles for investment instead of objects valued for their aesthetics.

A major reason for this shift in attitude toward investment is the easing of traditional barriers to buying or investing in art in the first place.

Fractional ownership makes it easy for someone to buy a small stake in a work of art they could never afford on their own. And because they aren’t taking and hanging that art on their wall — they only own a small fraction of it — they aren’t very attached to it.

In effect, art is becoming more commoditized as the barriers to entry break down.

As more people invest their money in the space, the more buying, selling, and trading will go on. This is especially true when it comes to Millennial art collectors because they represent 27% of all collectors.

The number of people who really love art will stay about the same, or climb slightly, while the number of people who invest in art will rise dramatically.

Technology will continue playing a number of roles in the art world.

A number of technologies are touching every part of the art ecosystem.

Blockchain is driving innovations in the automation, interoperability, security, and accessibility of data from transactions and records. The major use cases we’ll see develop from blockchain technology are authentication and provenance tracking, smart asset management, and tokenization and fractionalization of ownership.

AI is changing how art is created — and who is doing the creation. We’re going to be seeing more artists moving away from the traditional mediums as they continue to experiment and iterate with AI-generated art. And AR and VR art-based technologies will continue to improve since they hold plenty of promise for artists looking to push boundaries and explore new mediums and art forms.

The traditional skills necessary for creating art will begin to merge with those for creating tech — the rise of the artist as a coder.

Companies within the space are also working on applications for machine learning and data science for the art world. Sotheby’s recently acquired Thread Genius, a startup working on a visual search engine that can also be applied to art. Using price points, past transactions, and other data on a specific artwork, it may soon be possible to get better valuations and recommendations for art collectors simply by scanning an artwork.

This moment in time will become a part of art history books.

I recently picked up a copy of The Rarest Book, a book about the evolution of the rare Pepe memes. It’s so interesting because it acts a snapshot in time, tracing the evolution of this art and its cultural references over the past 30 years.

What’s happening now will end up in the history books that a new generation cracks open at the beginning of each semester — or, more likely, download onto a device.

Ten years from now, you’ll see this chunk of time distilled, and it will be another artistic phase, just as we had abstract expressionism or pointillism.

Regardless of how it all shakes out, 2019 is going to be a big year of both digital art and the art world as a whole. I’ll be paying close attention, and my advice would be for anyone interested in the space to do the same.


Thanks for reading!

Our team at the Blockchain Art Collective wants to make sure the art world changemakers and innovators — whether individuals or institutions — are having an impact on this growing ecosystem.

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