A-Temporal Acquisitions: Why You Should Collect Video Art

Leigh Ledare’s stirring depictions of brief human interactions outside train stations in Vokzal , Lyle Ashton Harris’ poignant and dreamy recollections of AIDS activism and emergent multiculturalism in Once (Now) Again, and Anicka Yi’s hypnotizing 3D The Flavor Genome; besides being subjectively some of the most compelling and thought provoking art works exhibited at this year’s Whitney Biennial, these pieces also embody a deeply contemporary museum experience as video art, or by their inclusion of video technologies – a format surreptitiously gaining momentum in the market.

Video art has been synonymous with contemporary art since its introduction in the 1960’s -70’s by early conceptual art pioneers such as Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, and Joyce Wieland. It is a familiar and notable method for the increasingly interdisciplinary art experience, and as a medium itself. Yet, the notion of “collecting” a video piece until very recently has been a vastly underrepresented arena of the market – with only major institutions and museums making most significant video art acquisitions. That is rapidly changing.

As digital communications increasingly sublate with our personal environments, so to has our comfortability with technologies. Recognizing this, there is a new consortium of gallerists, collectors, and art patrons investing in artworks which reside on DVD, VHS, or within cloud computing, and whose physical uniqueness is exclusive to it’s digital file name.

Both a culmination of our current viewing environment, where the reproducibility, access, and aggregation of media is a commonly understood practice, and as a result of emergent societal concerns with maintaining our collective digital “archive”, video art is increasingly becoming an important medium to collect both as a highly unique art experience and for historic preservation. Here’s why:

  1. A-Temporal Archiving: Interestingly, collectors of video art are directly involved in maintaining and preserving our collective video archive. Patrons of video art fulfill a necessary role in historical archiving specific to digital mediums through the constant upkeep and migration of file formatting to stay “up to date”. As new viewing platforms and technologies emerge, so too must these artworks in order to stay compatible. Without active and engaged collectors, most video art works would eventually become irrelevant.


  1. Video Art is Very Of-the-Moment: Video art is a unique and differentiated experience disparate from more traditional mediums such as paintings, sculpture, and photography, in that is proffers a temporal commitment from the viewer in order to access its aesthetic integrity: it is a medium intrinsically related to politics and social issues of right-now. Today, more than ever, there is an inordinate amount of talented artists making internet-based and moving image works that will be significant acquisitions in years to come.


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