David Gryn blog

Collecting on the Cloud, a digital exchange with David Gryn of Daata by Sylvia Wu, SCREEN

In Art, Art Basel, Daata Editions, Digital, Frieze, SCREEN, Sound, Video, Web, Zabludowicz on 10/10/2015 at 7:55 pm

photo: David Gryn by Jane Bustin

Sylvia Wu’s conversation with David Gryn, director of Daata Editions, On New Models of Selling Digital Art, is now live on SCREEN, a New York-based bilingual platform aiming to redefine media art.

http://www.onscreentoday.com/conversation/art-collecting-in-the-air

With the fall coming up, the relatively quiet holiday season will burst into a kaleidoscope of exhibitions and events. Alongside the physical world, several online sales platforms are also making their voices heard. Daata Editions, created by Art Basel’s Curator of Film, David Gryn, and collector Anita Zabludowicz, is among the most active. Launched in May this year, Daata Editions has made some great sales of its artist commissioned video, sound and web art editions, and perhaps more importantly, it has established a fresh model for selling and buying digital art. On its website, Daata Editions has currently two releases from “Season 1” of artist commissioned works including a collaboration between Martti Kalliala and Daniel Keller, and videos by Takeshi Murata. To figure out more about Daata’s language and concepts, SCREEN was in conversation with David Gryn, who previously said “We need to believe that, in the same way we easily buy music and films online via the likes of iTunes or Amazon, we can buy art via digital files and not have to [physically] possess an object to give a work its validation”1

SCREEN: We know that you curate Art Basel’s film sector where you can observe the market for digital art. But how exactly did the initial idea of creating Daata Editions come to you?

David Gryn: I worked with Art Basel for five years, and before that with various major other art fairs. It was obvious that galleries really don’t think about bringing films, videos, sound and other digital media to art fairs because they haven’t found a way to sell them. It dawned to me that something needs to be done about this, not just by one person but by many. I’ve never been a big believer in the market place per se, but I do believe that you need to have a market place where artists who make good digital artworks can be supported.

So our model of creating Daata Editions is the idea to start commissioning artists, paying them and giving them royalties, marketing the process and what they create, and I came together with these thoughts with collector and philanthropist Anita Zabludowicz, whom I’ve known for a long time. We came from different spectrums of the art world, me working with the art directly and not involved in the market place, while Anita collecting art passionately but also supporting artists and students. She believes in the ecosystem of the art world like I do, and the evolving concept of Daata was something we mutually agreed with.

S: What differs Daata Editions from other online sales platforms?

DG: We are not trying to be different. What we are building is our own bespoke, boutique model. I’m not looking at this being reinventing the wheel, but that we’ve created Daata Editions to present artists who make artworks with digital media, video, web, sound works. It works for that medium as well as we can possibly do within a finite model. Where it may differ from others is that we are very restricted to what we are focused on doing—we are commissioning, any one time, currently 18 artists per “season”. We pay the artists upfront to make the works, which is quite unusual in the art world. They also receive a royalty, which is also quite unusual.

A snapshot of the “Artists” page on the Daata Editions website. The background picture is a frame from Leo Gabin’s “Write Your Name”.

I hope that there are many models, and we are one of many. My view is that we’ll do it very well and hopefully other people will also do well. Just like you need many good galleries in an art fair, and you need many of them in a neighborhood to make it an art center that people might travel to visit. One good thing doesn’t form a market place, but often dominance. What often happens with digital business in the art world is that there’s a desire to be dominant because of the idea of monopoly. You could be the next big thing, the next Facebook or the next Twitter. We are not trying to be that. We are trying to put artists at the center of what we are doing, representing mediums that are actually very much commonplace amongst artists. Really commonplace. It’s almost ridiculous that most artists use digital media even if they are painters, to some degree to research or to communicate. But somehow the art market hasn’t found a way to reflect that yet. And galleries really find it difficult to find a business model around those works and how to find the commodified market place. We are working with art forms that are still finding their feet in that area but we are also working with them because we believe that those are true artists, not some freak shows. All the artists we work with are artists that are emerging and somehow emerged—simply talented artists and digital media is just the way they work.

S: But you seem to have a different language or vocabulary for the components within your model? What’s different about the works in the category “Web”? What’s a “season” (it easily reminds people of TV shows on websites like Netflix)?

DG: A lot of things are about semantics here. It’s trying to find a way to describe what we are doing. You might have noticed that we call everything artists’ video, artists’ sound, artists’ web, because what we see is that artists make the works. It’s not just video art, sounds art or web art—sometimes these are quite old and clumsy terms. The category “Web” is still an amorphous area of different forms of artworks, maybe a website, a video, or GIFs, but it’s enabling us to have different technologies within a section. Right now it’s probably ostensibly things that you could call video in our video section, but they are just made by slightly more emerging artists. With the “seasons”, it is a way of defining what each cycle is. As we were launching, we wanted to give a flavor that Season 1 is the first commissioning cycle. Like on Netflix, you might have a second season, which is a new cycle. What I think of the languages of Netflix is that you go back to Season 1 and Season 2 when you are on Season 10, but are still delighted to look at those seasons. You don’t think of them any less just because they are “older”, and in some cases you realize you have to look at those first.

A snapshot of the “Art” page on the Daata Editions website, where artworks are categorized as “Video”, “Sound” and “Web”.

S: How do you select the artists for each season? How does the collaboration work?

DG: It goes back to what I mentioned as an ecosystem. The artists all have a pretty good aura around them. A few of them recently graduated, like Helen Benigson, Matt Copson, Lina Lapelyte and Charles Richardson. And then there’s others that we have been working with for years and are well known. David Blandy has done a lot of works about gaming and sound cultures. Ed Fornieles and Jon Rafman are both advisors to our project. Leo Gabin, for instance, produce video and film works, but for Daata they have also made sound works for the first time. It’s therefore exciting to commission something that these artists haven’t focused on before. We show them online, but they can be purchased and shown offline. In other words, they are not solely dependent on the online platform. We commission the artists without saying what they should make for us, only that the work should be around 3 minutes or less. The idea is that the works will be fresh, quick and spontaneous. We limit what we do but we never judge the works. There’s no sending back to the artists or saying that we don’t like the works. That’s risky but it’s the way we wanted it to be—trust the artists to deliver. Our business model is a self-sustaining company. The aim is that each cycle is paid for from the previous one, but the artists get paid upfront regardless of sales.

Takeshi Murata, OM Passenger, HD Video, mp4, 0:40 mins ( artwork page on Daata https://daata-editions.com/art/video/takeshi-murata-om-passenger )

S: What about the choice of the website design?

DG: We did something similar with the designer of the website. Studio Scasascia, the company we worked with designed the website of a favorite record company of mine. As I’m comfortable buying music online, I hope to use this model to sell artists’ works as well. My brief to the designers was that we wanted the artists to be the center of the website. We wanted it to be an aesthetically pleasing and also simple platform, doing not more than showing and selling 18 artists’ commissioned works. We commissioned 6 works from each artist, plus one by Jon Rafman, which is free for downloading from the website. Meanwhile all the works can be viewed without registration or payment.

Jon Rafman, Oh the Humanity, HD Video, mp4, 3:00 mins, Unlimited edition.

A certificate for Jon Rafman’s “Oh the Humanity”.

S: Now that the works can be fully accessed on the website, what marks the difference between viewing and owning the works? What do you think drives a collector to purchase something non-physical?

DG: For one artwork, there’s 15 editions for sale. When you purchase one work you can download the high resolution file and own an edition of that work. The price goes up by $100 (in web and sound) or $200 (in video) after each edition sells. The price of a final artwork, for instance in video, can be $5600, which in my view, is probably closest to what the artwork is actually worth. In this way, we want to make it transparent and accessible, so that the works become affordable for many more people. Of course not everyone buys an artwork of $100, but this price is quite cheap for a quality artwork. So we are talking about people who believe in art. We are not trying to convince people who think it’s not worth it, because they might say the same thing about Picasso and Matisse. But still we want those people to be able to watch the works. Unlike Youtube where you find millions of videos and sounds, we are an artist based platform and we show artworks. What drives the collectors is their wish to own artworks, similar to how they come into a gallery or an auction house to buy artworks of other media. I think a collector can do both.

S: How is Daata Editions and your artists doing so far?

DG: We have made some major sales to major art collectors and collections. We will be announcing those in October when we launch the third release. It is in fact magical for us because these are the biggest collectors of this kind of media. It’s also brilliant for the artists because they are now in those big collections. Some of them will truly start their career from this, which could have taken more years for their works to be found or purchased via galleries. Actually, many of the artists on our site don’t have galleries yet. For those who do, several galleries are keen for us to show their artists, because evolving a market for any artist is difficult. So we see what we do as a supportive act. We promote the artists but don’t actually represent them.

Lina Lapelyte, Hunky Bluff ACT2 – Never was a shade, CD Quality sound, wav, 2:57 mins, ( artwork page on Daata https://daata-editions.com/art/sound/lina-lapelyte-hunky-bluff-act2-never-was-a-shade )

S: What’s the sales agreement between Daata Editions and its customers? Do you have something like customer service? What happens if a file is damaged or lost?

DG: If the file on your computer is damaged or lost, you can download again from the website. We won’t make it a problem, since the collectors own the file and their names are on the certificate. If they want to give it to another person and transfer the ownership, they go to the website and change the certificate and then download it in the new owner’s name. Also the collectors can always log in their accounts on our website and view their purchased items online. If a different operating system exists, we will adjust the files to make sure the works play well on it. We want to make the whole process simple and friendly instead of making a prison contract that you enter into. You buy an artwork, and you can view it on whatever platform, and within reason, you can show it in your home and in your office. Of course if you want to show it publicly, the artist owns the intellectual property, and we need to go back to the artist. But we operate based on the trust in the buyer. The art world I operate in is all about good will and credibility, and this world should believe in itself. We don’t want to make the buying of digital art a problem before it’s happened.

S: Did you set a goal of any sort?

DG: We are working with artists, whose natural language is digital and online. We set up this platform with the goal that in the near future people are happy to buy, play and show artworks digitally on their devices. If a gallery can’t sell digital artworks or any time-based media easily, then the artists become compelled to make paintings, sculptures, installations that are easier to commodify. I see digital media equally to the traditional mediums such as painting and sculpture. I hope they can be seen equally by all. With most artists touching upon digital media in some way, we anticipate there will be a real market and audiences will have the confidence to engage with it.

S: Are you confident about creating a “virtual” market for artists and collectors?

DG: Yes. I do think it’s a natural development. It’s not a contrived market because I do believe we are getting to the point where real artists are making really good artworks with digital means. Technology, as their tools, are being used brilliantly. It’s no longer a romanticism of digital media. But again we don’t want to be the only platform to show artists working with digital media. Currently we can’t do more than 18 artists in a season because obviously we, as a small team, are limited. I’d love to think galleries can look at what we are doing and similar companies like ours can copy us, because I believe galleries are the ultimate and best placed curator of the artists they represent. However, many galleries can’t think of doing it, because perhaps they can’t do it properly or still lack the desire. That’s why I think we have to evolve different market places. Not all artworks are sold in the same way. There should be different sales or rental models, but what bonds them, makes them co-exist and move forward together are dialogues and communications. Hopefully we are a powerful voice and I do believe that we are empowering the market place by making people believe they can buy what we have commissioned from the artists and create various commercial relationships.

1 See ANNY SHAW, “Collectors join forces to co-commission digital art”, THE ART NEWSPAPER, 18 June 2015, http://theartnewspaper.com/reports/156860/

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  1. Great interview!

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