Sotheby’s First Look: Bowie/Collector November 10th & 11th

Musician. Actor. Icon. David Bowie was one of the most recognisable and revered artists in the world. The legendary performer was also a passionate collector with deep connections to modern and contemporary artworks and their makers. This November, Sotheby’s London is honoured to present Bowie/Collector, a three-part sale encompassing some 400 objects from the personal holdings of a man who approached collecting with the same inspired sense of individualism that defined his own fiercely original art. Watch our video for a first look at the works that inspired and energised David Bowie.

1630978_Catalogue_Images_1360x500_1Part I: Modern and Contemporary Art, Evening Auction

On the evening of 10 November, the most important pieces from David Bowie’s Modern & Contemporary Art collection will go under the hammer. At the centre of the auction will be Bowie’s incredible collection of Modern & Post-War British Art, covering the entirety of the 20th century, from Harold Gilman’s classic ‘Camden Town School’ painting, Interior (Mrs Mounter), through to Damien Hirst’s Beautiful, Shattering, Slashing, Violent, Pinky, Hacking, Sphincter Painting. Also included are significant works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Marcel Duchamp, evidencing Bowie’s wide-ranging tastes and eclectic attitude towards collecting.

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Part II: Modern and Contemporary Art, Day Auction

The second part of the series, to be offered at auction on 11 November, consists of over 200 paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints by many of the most important British artists of the 20th century, a selection that is truly breathtaking in its scope and diversity, encompassing all the major art movements of the period. Also included are stand-out examples of Contemporary African Art, Outsider Art and German Expressionist printmaking, once again illustrating Bowie’s wide-ranging interests and inspirations.

Part III: Post-Modernist Design: Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group

Bowie was a voracious collector of the works of eccentric Italian designer Ettorre Sottsass and the Milan-based Memphis group. The final session of the sale series will comprise pieces such as the iconic Post-Modernist ‘Casablanca’ Sideboardfrom the first Memphis collection of 1981, and the unconventional record player, the RR 126 Radiophonograph, designed in 1965 by the brothers Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni for Brionvega, both of which are definitive pieces of cutting edge Italian design fitting for the most innovative and daring musician of his generation.

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http://www.sothebys.com/content/sothebys/en/news-video/videos/2016/07/bowie-collector.html

ED RUSCHA: Prints and Photographs @GagosianGallery

ED

Ed Ruscha
Parking Lots (Dodgers Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave.), 1967/1999
One of thirty gelatin silver prints
Archival artist’s crate, image: 15 1/2 × 15 1/2 inches (39.4 × 39.4 cm)
Edition of 35
© Ed Ruscha

Opening reception: Thursday, July 28th, from 6:00 to 8:00pm

Gagosian Gallery is pleased to present “Ed Ruscha Prints and Photographs,” a survey of Ruscha’s prints over forty years, together with rarely seen photographs produced since 1959. It is organized by Gagosian director Bob Monk and follows earlier iterations at Gagosian New York and Paris during the last two years. The exhibition will be presented in conjunction with “Ed Ruscha Books & Co.”

Ranging freely across materials both traditional and unconventional, Ruscha’s printmaking is a fluid forum for his spirited investigation of what a limited-edition artwork can be. Attracted to the reproducibility and happy accidents specific to the medium, Ruscha began making lithographic editions in the early sixties, infusing the Pop and Conceptual sensibilities of the time with vernacular wit and melancholy. His exquisitely refined prints engage a breadth of formal themes, from text and typography to still life and quotidian architecture, played out in a spirit of rigorous yet restless experimentation.

The quartet of gas stations Standard StationMocha StandardCheese Mold Standard with Olive, and Double Standard (1966–69) merge Euclidean space with Renaissance perspective and word-play, while depictions of the Hollywood Sign and its surrounding hills convey an attitude to the region’s landscape, at once scientific and romantic, natural and artificial. “’Hollywood’ is like a verb to me,” Ruscha once commented. “It’s something you can do to any subject or anything”: his prints of the past four decades are random yet refined expressions of this unrestricted approach.

In the screenprint portfolio News, Mews, Pews, Brews, Stews, Dues(1970), rhyming words appear in Gothic typeface, printed in edible substances such as pie-fillings, Bolognese sauce, caviar, and chocolate syrup. Each word alludes to Ruscha’s impressions of England: News symbolizes “a tabloid-minded country,” while Stews, made from baked beans, strawberries, chutney, and other foodstuffs, sums up British cooking. During the production of his second short film Miracle (1975), Ruscha used photography as the basis for prints for the first time: the incongruously titled Tropical Fish Series of the same year presents banal tabletop still lifes against lustrous fabrics, from Air, Water, Fire with a bicycle pump, seltzer bottle, and Satan statuette to the chocolates, raw cuts, and bedsheets of Sweets, Meats, Sheets.

In richly colored lithographs, catchy yet meaningless terms, such as WALL ROCKET (2013), JET BABY (2011), and SPONGE PUDDLE (2015), are set against dramatic mountainscapes in scenic conflations of linguistic and visual appropriation. Unique color trial proofs and cancellation proofs are presented alongside prints from the editions to show the evolutive process by which Ruscha decides on a final image.

Ruscha’s early photographs also provided foundations for his broader artistic practice. Isolating overlooked quotidian subjects, he used the camera to “flatten” the images he intended to draw and paint, from apartment buildings to commodities and comestibles, such as raisins and bottles of turpentine. Exercises in the ambiguity of scale, such as Untitled (Newspaper Sculpture)(1959–60/2005) and Dodger’s Stadium (1967/2013) reveal a common abstraction in both small objects and large-scale architecture. Roof Top Views (1961) depicts local streets from a high vantage point, which Ruscha revisited in Roof Top Views 50 Years Later (2003), revealing neighborhoods only subtly changed by the pace of time, economy, and demographics.

Ruscha’s deadpan representations of archetypal signs and symbols distill the imagery of popular culture into cinematic and typographical codes that are as accessible as they are profound. His wry and sometimes obtuse choice of words and phrases draws upon the moments of incidental ambiguity implicit in the interplay between language and image. Although his inspirations are undeniably rooted in his close observation of American vernacular, his elegantly laconic art speaks to more complex and widespread issues regarding the appearance, feel, and function of the world and our tenuous and transient place within it.

Ed Ruscha was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1937. His work is collected by museums worldwide. Recent solo museum exhibitions include “Cotton Puffs, Q-Tips®, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha,” Whitney Museum of American Art (2004, travelled to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in 2005); “Ed Ruscha,” MAXXI, Rome (2004); “Course of Empire,” the U.S. pavilion for the 51st Biennale di Venezia (2005); “Ed Ruscha: Photographer,” Jeu de Paume, Paris (2006, travelled to Kunsthaus Zürich, and Museum Ludwig, Cologne); “Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting,” Hayward Gallery, London (2009–10, travelled to Haus der Kunst, Munich; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm in 2010); “Ed Ruscha: Road Tested,” The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2011); “On the Road,” Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011, travelled to Denver Art Museum, Colorado and Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami in 2012); “Reading Ed Ruscha,” Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2012); “Ed Ruscha: Standard,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012–13, travelled to The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA in 2013); “Ed Ruscha-Los Angeles Apartments,” Kunstmuseum Basel (2013). In 2012, Ruscha curated “The Ancients Stole All Our Great Ideas” at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; and “Ed Ruscha: Mixmaster” at Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Torino (2015–16).

In July 2016, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will open a major solo exhibition of Ed Ruscha at the de Young museum. “Ed Ruscha and the Great American West” will feature more than eighty works spanning the artist’s career, exploring his attachments to the sights and scenes of the iconic landscape.

 

Rubens masterpiece sets Christie’s record

Lot and His Daughters sells for £44,882,500 — the highest price ever achieved for an Old Master painting at Christie’s — following an electrifying bidding battle

An exceptional early work by Peter Paul RubensLot and His Daughters, led Christie’s Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale on 7 July, realising £44,882,500 /$58,167,720 after an intense battle between four bidders which lasted for an electrifying 14 minutes.

The figure represents the highest price ever achieved for an Old Master painting in Christie’s 250-year history, and the second highest price ever for an Old Master painting at auction after The Massacre of the Innocents, also by Rubens, sold for £49,506,648 in 2002.

Paul Raison, Deputy Chairman of Old Master Pictures, commented: ‘The sale of this significant painting demonstrates that Christie’s continues to lead the masterpiece market at auction and in this field. A stunning work of psychological complexity, Lot and His Daughterswas created at a time when Rubens’ reputation as the most renowned artist in Antwerp had already placed him firmly at the centre of the European artistic stage.’

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Seigen 1577-1640 Antwerp), Lot and His Daughters, circa 1613-1614. Oil on canvas, 74 x 88½ in. (190 x 225 cm). Sold for £44,882,500 on 7 July 2016

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Seigen 1577-1640 Antwerp), Lot and His Daughters, circa 1613-1614. Oil on canvas, 74 x 88½ in. (190 x 225 cm). Sold for £44,882,500 on 7 July 2016

One of the most important paintings by the master to have remained in private hands, Lot and His Daughters had been unseen in public for more than a century. Measuring more than two metres wide, the work boasts remarkable provenance, having been held in the collections of wealthy Antwerp merchants, a Governor-General of the Spanish Netherlands, Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor and the Dukes of Marlborough, who hung it in Blenheim Palace — the work having been sold in its original Blenheim frame.

The result contributed to the £63,390,100/$84,745,570 overall total for Christie’s Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale, which achieved sell-through rates of 93 per cent by value and 77 per cent by lot, attracting registered bidders from 25 countries across 5 continents. The sale formed part of Christie’s ongoing Classic Week — the first of its kind in London — bringing its running total to £86,150,663.

Commenting on the sale, Henry Pettifer, International Director, Head of Old Master & British Paintings, highlighted the ‘energetic’ atmosphere in the sale room. ‘Top prices were realised at all price levels,’ he observed, ‘with notable highlights including The Four Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter by Pieter Brueghel II, which sold over estimate to achieve £6,466,500; Bellotto’s pair of panoramas of the Grand Canal Venice which realised £3,554,500; and Jacob van Ruisdael’s View of Haarlem, which reached £1,538,500.’

http://www.christies.com/features/Rubens-Lot-and-His-Daughters-sets-Christies-record-7554-3.aspx

Sigmar Polke’s Roter Fisch sells for $4,141,558 @Sotheby’s in London

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Completed on an epic scale, Roter Fisch (Red Fish) is a fascinating example of Sigmar Polke’s eclectic style and an apt demonstration of his engagement with the tension between abstraction and figuration. In its appropriation of an isolated passage from Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1557 drawing Invidia, it can be understood as one of the most compelling examples from a series of paintings that Polke made in the 1990s which are distinctive for their appropriation of motifs from pre-modern art history. It is also one of the most painterly works that Polke made using industrially produced fabric. In their production, he poured and splashed paint over the regulated patterns of the manufactured materials in a way that deliberately disrupted and subverted their geometry and rationality. Thus, in the present work, the homogeny of gingham is usurped by vast tendrils of opaque white and passages of incongruent raster-dot imagery. It is an engaging composition that has featured in prestigious museum exhibitions, and should be considered as one of the most important paintings from this phase of Polke’s oeuvre.

By the 1990s, Polke’s work had gained a new vitality and pictorial dynamism akin to the radical brilliance of his 1960s paintings. Having given up painting for most of the 1970s in favour of experimenting with other media such as photography and film, he returned to painterly practice with renewed energy in the 1980s and 1990s. Art historian Sean Rainbird commented on these machinations shortly after the present work’s execution: “Polke appears now to delegate ever more processes in his painting, while remaining in ultimate control. His motifs are usually found within the history of art and illustration… They are often readable only as fragments depicting human agency, against the increasingly unstructured grounds on which he has limited the autograph mark by allowing the liquids he applies to find their own final shape” (Sean Rainbird, ‘Seams and Appearances: learning to paint with Sigmar Polke’, in: Exh. Cat., Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, Sigmar Polke, Join the Dots, 1995, p. 22).

Constant throughout these variations in Polke’s artistic methodology is a dedicated interest in the formal and theoretical elements that differentiate abstraction from figuration. While initially this fascination was made manifest through the artist’s appropriation of cultural images, in the late 1980s and early 1990s Polke reversed this approach, suggesting the figurative in the abstract through a sustained enquiry into the reactive possibilities of diverse materials and colour. Roter Fischexemplifies this thrilling tension between representative and non-representative art forms; the gestural tendrils of white paint counteract the sharply delineated silhouette in the lower left hand corner, which appears to approximate the fish motif heralded in the title. Furthermore, within this form, Polke has appropriated passages of medieval imagery which are cropped, rotated, and re-printed in idiosyncratic raster dots and a bold primary palette so that the depicted scene is increasingly difficult to read. The overall effect is beguiling, and imparts a remarkable amalgam of image, colour, and form, which reveals the astonishing assurance of this artist’s mature technique.

This cropped and appropriated imagery is taken from Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s drawing entitled Invidia, which belongs to a series devoted to The Seven Deadly Sins that were created in 1557, that was then used as a source for an engraving by Pieter van der Hyden. Its appearance here should not be read as any attempt from Polke to impart a similar meaning to the present canvas, but does identify Roter Fisch within a wider tranche of Polke’s contemporaneous oeuvre, in which he reproduced shreds of art history using a Benday (raster-dot) printing method. The artist had first appropriated this patterned means of reproducing images during the 1960s when it was the only available means of mass-producing images in commercial printing. However, unlike the glossy machine-like production of Roy Lichtenstein, who used a similar pattern to create tightly composed comic-style pictures, Polke manipulated the shape and scale of the dots by distorting the matrix so as to erode the source image into a ghostly blur. His pictures are subsequently more comparable to Gerhard Richter’s fêted Photo-Paintingsin their deployment of blurred preclusive semi-figurative forms. Observed from up close, these obscure motifs seem fragmentary and disjunctive, only partially coalescing in the mind’s eye to form a unified image. In magnifying the scale of the raster-dots through their transfer onto canvas, Polke deconstructed the mechanically reproduced Benday pattern to the point of abstraction, breaking down the aesthetic and physical structure of the source image so that it verges on collapse. By subtly corroding the cohesiveness and integrity of his source image in this way, Polke posed important questions about the nature of image-making, of perception, and of reality. These raster-dots were hugely important to Polke, and rife with interpretative meaning: “I like the way that the dots in a magnified picture swim and move about. The way that motifs change from recognisable to unrecognisable, the undecided ambiguous nature of the situation, the way it remains open… Many dots vibrating, swinging, blurring, reappearing: one could think of radio signals, telegraphic images, television come to mind” (Sigmar Polke cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Sigmar Polke: Alibis, 2014, p. 74).

Polke produced work of astonishing diversity and versatility throughout his career, forging a painterly language that was utterly unique in its embrace of innovative artistic forms and ideas. His works teasingly defy categorisation, eluding association with conventional art historical movements in favour of an extraordinarily eclectic stylistic language. Transcending the boundaries of traditional painting, Polke moved into fascinatingly unpredictable dominions of creative experimentation, whilst imbuing his works with a sense of subtle satire and humour. Polke challenges us to unravel the riddles he presents on canvas, yet does so in a way that ultimately leaves interpretation a matter of personal opinion. Peter Schjeldahl comments on the enigmatic nature of Polke’s oeuvre: “To learn more and more about him, it has sometimes seemed to me, is to know less and less. His art is like Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland rabbit hole, entrance to a realm of spiralling perplexities…” (Peter Schjeldhal, ‘The Daemon and Sigmar Polke’, in: Exh. Cat., San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sigmar Polke, 1990 -91, p. 17). The present work is similarly multi-faceted; it demonstrates Sigmar Polke’s disruptive painterly style, exemplifies his vast artistic ambition, and distils his astounding ability to hover between abstract and figurative modes of depiction.

 

Christo Walks on Water With New Italian Installation

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For four decades, Christo, the artist famous for wrapping monuments such as the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris in shining fabrics, dreamed of making people “walk on water.” Attempts to secure authorization for his installation of floating piers on lakes in countries from Japan to Argentina all failed.

Christo will finally realize his dream in Italy this summer, when 220,000 polyethylene cubes draped in yellow fabric create part of a 3.4-mile-long walkway on Lake Iseo and its banks.

The 81-year-old Bulgarian-born artist and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, his collaborator for five decades, had searched for the perfect site for “The Floating Piers” since first imagining the work in the 1970s. The couple wanted “a place with tranquil waters, but where people live, too,” he said.

A view of the Floating Piers from Sulzano Monte Isola
It was only after his wife’s death, in 2009, that Christo began considering Lake Iseo, a hidden jewel among the lakes of northern Italy.

The key to making the project—Christo’s first since Jeanne-Claude’s death—a reality was a tiny island that belongs to the Beretta family, owners of the 490-year-old Italian maker of guns and hunting rifles.

About 1.2 miles off the coast of Sulzano and just below the larger island of Monte Isola, San Paolo has been home to monks and naval troops and served as a meeting place for scientists, diplomats and artists. In 1916, the Berettas bought island to use as a summer residence.

With everything from food to furniture having to be brought by boat, the logistics of life on the 262-foot-wide island aren’t always easy to navigate. “If I wanted a newspaper in the morning, I needed to jump on a boat and go to the other island to get it,” said Umberta Gnutti Beretta, whose husband, Franco, now runs the family business. Though other members of the family still go to San Paolo on vacation in the summer, the island has mostly been used by the couple for dinners and parties.

On the morning of June 16, the unfurling of the shimmering yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio was nearly completed.
On the morning of June 16, the unfurling of 1,000,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio was nearly complete.
Christo, The Floating Piers (Project for Lake Iseo, Italy) Collage 2014
Christo, The Floating Piers (Project for Lake Iseo, Italy) Collage 2014
Christo, The Floating Piers (Project for Lake Iseo, Italy) Collage 2014
Christo, The Floating Piers (Project for Lake Iseo, Italy) Collage 2014
Assembly manager Frank Seltenheim, operations manager Vladimir Yavachev, Christo and chief engineer Vince Davenport discussed the final steps for a life-size test at Montecolino, Lake Iseo, Italy, in October 2015.
During the life-size test at Montecolino, Christo smiled as the piers undulated with the movement of the waves, Lake Iseo, October 2015
At the textile manufacturer Setex in Greven, Germany, 90,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric were produced.
In Lübeck, Germany, the yellow fabric was sewn into panels.
At a factory in Fondotoce at Lago Magiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes were manufactured over a period of eight months.
The cubes were delivered to the project’s storage in Montecolino, in January 2016.
At the headquarters in Montecolino, construction workers assembled the piers, which are produced in 100-meter-long segments and stored outside Montecolino on Lake Iseo, January 2016
Aerial view of the project’s building yard on the Montecolino peninsula (right) and the temporary storage on Lake Iseo (left), in February 2016
Aerial view of the project’s building yard in April 2016
A diver connected a rope made of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, covered with a polyester protective layer with a breaking load of 20 metric tons, to one of the anchors on the lakebed to keep the piers in place, in March 2016.
Frames were attached underneath the cubes to the deadweight anchors on the lakebed in April
Workers pushed one of the frames underneath a floating element before connecting it with screws in April.
Workers started to encircle the island of San Paolo with the first floating elements in April.
Vince Davenport, responsible for the felt and fabric installation on the pedestrian streets, director of operations Vladimir Yavachev and Christo at the project’s headquarters in Montecolino, in April
The felt that covers the cubes underneath the yellow fabric was transported from Montecolino to San Paolo island by Elimast Helicopter Service in May
Workers installed the felt that covers the floating cubes in May.
One by one, workers installed the 100-by-16-meter sections to connect the island of San Paolo with the island of Monte Isola in May.
On the morning of June 16, the unfurling of the shimmering yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio was nearly completed.
On the morning of June 16, the unfurling of 1,000,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio was nearly complete.

 

But when Ms. Beretta, an art enthusiast, heard in 2014 that Christo was pondering Lake Iseo as a location for one of his installations, she became enamored of the idea of turning San Paolo into a work of art. “When he showed us the sketch of the project, I didn’t think about all the complications it could bring,” she recalled. “I just loved it.”

The Berettas opened up their island to Christo, who has used it as one of the installation’s three landings. More importantly, they helped the artist obtain the necessary permits from local authorities, including renting the lake’s waters and redirecting its ferry traffic.

Opening June 18 and running for two weeks, “The Floating Piers” surround San Paolo and connect it to Monte Isola and Sulzano—a run normally accessible only by ferry. The pathway will allow visitors to walk to and around the islands, seeing the Berettas’ private island for the first time in years.

“The project is about direction,” said Christo. “I was impressed by the fact that some people who worked or lived on one of the islands were not able to move in other ways if not through boats. I wanted to give them the chance to walk.”

The Berettas have been renovating the family villa and gardens to ready the island for its starring moment. San Paolo will become “the center of a work of art, part of an artistic journey,” Mrs. Beretta said. “It’s a dream to see it surrounded by a work of art.”

By Manuela Mesco http://www.wsj.com/articles/christo-walks-on-water-with-new-italian-installation-1466183630

From selfies to virtual reality, how technology is changing the art world

By Marc Spiegler, Special to CNN

(CNN)In 2002, a self-taught programmer named Cory Arcangel hacked the code of a Nintendo Super Mario cartridge, stripping away all the graphics except for the fluffy pixelized clouds.

Two years later, his artwork “Super Mario Clouds v2k3”made Arcangel one of the 2004 Whitney Biennial’s breakthrough stars. Yet many of his new fans, Arcangel once told me, did not really understand what he had done: they thought they were watching a digital video, not hacked software.

A decade later, many people make the same misassumption about the young artist Ian Cheng‘s “infinite duration” work, in which his cinematic algorithms live-render richly detailed worlds filled with complex landscapes and animated creatures, “shot” with swooping cameras. Cheng uses radically better software, but it’s the same disconnect…

The history of digital art

For decades, art and tech have done an awkward, fitful dance, never fully committing to each other. Things started well, 50 years ago: In 1966, Billy Klüver, an engineer at Bell Labs (which later became AT&T) spearheaded Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), putting Bell’s cutting-edge equipment into the hands of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Jasper Johns.

9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, Robert Rauschenberg, Open Score, 1966

9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, Robert Rauschenberg, Open Score, 1966

As computers became more sophisticated and widely available, a small group of artists used them in making their work. Yet long after EAT’s experiments, digital art remained an outlier in mainstream museums and galleries, generally sequestered at festivals such asAustria’s Ars Electronica.
For the core of the artworld, most digital art seemed overly enamored with its own technology, and often felt conceptually lightweight.
On the flip side, the digerati dismissed the pieces that the artworld embraced as facile stuff, barely pushing past the basics of the Photoshop toolbox. As someone who loves both art and technology, I despaired for 20 years at the succession of stillborn children that their interactions produced.

Digital-native artists

Finally, my wait has ended: Today the digital work coming out of artists’ studios — often just their laptops – shows a clear shift, dissolving the boundaries between “the art world” and “digital art”.
Why? First, because these young artists are digital natives, who grew up with broadband at their fingertips, and the virtual never far from the physical in their life. (The curators Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets label this the “89plus” generation — because 1989 marked the introduction of the World Wide Web.)
Just as importantly, contemporary artists are working with technologies that make it as easy to create digital works as it is to paint or sculpt. That’s not hyperbole: Artists using Tiltbrush technology at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris can sculpt spectacular 3-D volumes in real time by moving their bodies through space, creating a result that looks more organic than digital.
That said, many artists are making work deeply steeped in code. Britain’s Ed Atkins, for example, uses a mix of motion-capture and CGI to create tightly paced videos run through with anomie. Drawing on the dreams and nightmares of the digital age, Atkins unleashes a mix of hooligans, human organs, effluvia and nods to pop culture.
Likewise, the Canadian artist Jon Rafman has become known for his dense VR works. At the Berlin Biennial that opened last week, visitors strapped into an Oculus Rift headset to experience his new piece “View of Pariser Platz.” At first, looking down onto Pariserplatz, the viewer saw nothing different. Suddenly (spoiler alert) reality shifted violently, unleashing visions of billowing smoke, flying bodies, beasts swallowing each other. Then you went into freefall, landing among an army of androids. I watched one woman struggle for balance and contort her hands into tight knots as the digital hallucinations hit her.

Beyond coding

But you don’t need programmers to make digital art today, because social media offers a platform perfect for social engineering.
Amalia Ulman’s controversial “Excellences and Perfections” performance, for example, took place entirely on Instagram over the course of four months in 2014. The Argentine artist created a trajectory in which “she” went from good country girl to urban escort to perfect-lifestyle blogger.
As she spiraled downwards, many of Ulman’s nearly 90,000 followers took the 475 posts at face value and grew increasingly worried for her sanity. (Not that surprising a misunderstanding, really, since on Instagram people’s “real” channels tend to be carefully constructed narratives.)
Thinking more broadly, technology has also redefined the audience for which artists now create. Camille Henrot’s entrancing 2013 Venice Biennale piece ‘Grosse Fatigue,’ for example, was technically possible long ago.
Yet its cascading screens of wildly different videos would have overwhelmed viewers not already accustomed to simultaneously scanning multiple feeds on their phone, tablet, TV, and laptop.
Just as importantly, our ever-more digital society redefines how art is made. Geography becomes less relevant by the day: Artists collaborate with a rotating cast of sparring partners all over the globe, not only other artists, but also writers, coders, fashion designers, electronica musicians, etc.
Much of the content is not created from scratch but rather generated through a voracious sampling, scraping and repurposing of the memes, images and clips that swirl around in the ether.
Copyright seems a tangential issue here. In Berlin last week, I ran into the New Zealand artist Simon Denny standing by his biennial piece — a series of trade-show booths for Blockchain companies.
“Artists make work about the world we live in,” he says. “And in our society, nearly everything involves private companies — even individuals act like brands. So if we want art about the contemporary world and brands are protective of usage and copyright, then how are you supposed to make art today?”

Art market disruption? Not yet

Interestingly enough, especially for someone in my position, there’s one area where technology has had relatively little impact: the art market. At least not in comparison to the way that Uber has totally disrupted the taxi business or that social media forced fashion to radically reconsider the role of runway shows.
The biggest influence on the market so far? Instagram, perfectly designed to make a gallery’s pieces go viral, but not a sales platform per se.
Obviously, the art-market killer app may still come. For now, though, what’s striking about the digital natives is how differently they relate to the market. Because technology allows them to source endless amounts of material, work across time zones, achieve stunning results without any capital, and promote their work directly to their own generation’s curators and collectors.
Can galleries still contribute to the careers of these artists? Absolutely. But many artists choose to dip into and out of the traditional system — or live entirely on its periphery — while focusing less on originality, objects and ownership than on new modes of producing and experiencing art. Finally, the future is now.