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On the sense of collecting video art
The peculiar nature of video art, linked as it is to an additional dimension — time — and therefore also to the need for special instrumentation to be able to use it, is certainly one of the reasons why the collecting of this form of art is, apparently, so little widespread. Moreover, it is also the periodic obsolescence of the media on which it is stored, and/or that of the reproductive instruments.
On the other hand, video art in general is — still — a niche phenomenon.
The relevance of the time factor is however one of the cultural reasons that still limit the passage of video art in the mainstream art category. The use of a video-artistic work, in fact, requires a time that does not depend on the will/availability of the user (and often requires particular environmental conditions, if the video also has an audio part), and this is something that, culturally, we associate with cinema, on TV; from an audiovisual product, we expect it to have a narrative structure, which creates an expectation and keeps the attention alive, where this feature is not at all peculiar to video art, which almost always diverges.
From this point of view, a bit like abstract art is to figurative art, so video art is to cinema and television.
According to Henriette Huldisch, curator of the Whitney Museum, “video art is no longer perceived as a separate category”. This is probably true in the anglo-saxon world, and perhaps in northern Europe. But in much of Europe, although there is a huge concentration of video artists, much more than in North America and even at a great level, the situation is not exactly that.
It is no coincidence that, among the very first collectors, there is a couple of americans, Richard and Pamela Kramlich, who since 1980 have bought video and new media art; In the late 1990s, the Kramlichs founded the New Art Trust to support research and conservation of videos and other time-based artistic media, collaborating with the Bay Area Video Coalition to establish a video and audio preservation center.
Moreover, Huldish always recognizes that “the video remains less collectible than, for example, painting or drawing”.
A fundamental distinction must be made between private collecting and museum collection. For the latter, for example, the technical problems, with the related costs, are a relevant topic. Unlike paintings and sculptures, video art technology changes every five or ten years and often works must be updated with the latest technology. “Media obsolescence is probably the most damaging factor in preserving new media,” according to Mona Jimenez, a professor and video conservation specialist at New York University. And, again in the words of Huldish, “video art places its demands on museums, in particular by raising issues that revolve around the needs of complicated electronic equipment”.
In more recent times, even more conservative museums have added videos and new media to their collections. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, acquired its first video art work only in 2001. Sometimes they are small museums that invest in video art, such as the CAM Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (near Naples) that has a rich collection video, thanks to a historic partnership with the Magmart festival.
The situation with regard to private collecting is different.
Globally, video art (and new media) are present in 10% of global art collections. A percentage still considerably small compared to the paintings, which are present in 83% of the collections. However, this number marks the growing popularity of video art.
One of the largest collections of videos in the world is owned by the German collector Ingvild Goetz who owns over 500 videos and cinematographic works. In the Top 10 we find also the aforementioned Pamela and Richard, and especially Julia Stoschek from Düsseldorf.
It is interesting to note that 9 out of the 10 biggest collectors are women, and 6 are from Central Europe.
(Julia Stoschek, Düsseldorf, Germany
Pamela and Richard Kramlich. San Francisco, United States
Francesca von Habsburg, Vienna, Austria
Haro Cumbusyan and Bilge Ogut-Cumbusyan, London, United Kingdom
Ruth and Bill True, Seattle, United States
Ivo Wessel, United States
Ingvild Goetz, Munich, Germany
Isabelle and Jean-Conrad Lemaitre, London, United Kingdom
Lekha and Anupam Poddar, New Delhi, India
Penny Clive, Hobart, Australia)
The central question, however, appears to be — of course — to create the connection between artists and collectors. As Julia Stoschek says, “in general, I would say that dialogues with artists and curators are the most stimulating moments to bring works of art to my attention.”
Of course, for (few) great artists, this is much easier. Their works, among other things, as well as being exhibited in museums are often present in important art auctions. A television sculpture by Nam June Paik was sold by Christie’s for a record $ 275,000, while a video installation by Doug Aitken, Electric Earth, was sold by Phillips, de Pury & Co. for $ 114,000.
Very different is the situation for younger or lesser-known artists, especially in Italy, where the presence of video art in museums — though growing — is still marginal, and above all it is scarcely conveyed by galleries.
Being very market-oriented, the policy of private galleries takes into account the limitative considerations mentioned above. In short, “video art is collectible, but it requires a lot of effort and not just a financial effort.” Time-based support must be installed. “Paintings or sculptures are easy to manage. Install an installation two, three, four, five channels requires a lot more work.” (Julia Stoschek).
And, of course, the scarcity of demand affects this very much. According to Kipton Cronkite, manager of kiptonart.com, DVD video versions of younger artists can be purchased from art galleries for under $ 10,000. A figure that in Italy would appear absolutely disproportionate to the vast majority of gallery owners — and collectors …
Nevertheless, what Pamela Kramlich says is undoubtedly true: “video is really the art of our time, it has become a second language for a whole new generation of artists”, so it is only a matter of time. Video art will invade museums, galleries and private collections. It’s inevitable.


[Enrico Tomaselli / 2020-04-01]

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