Tracey Emin‘s “I Promise To Love You” neonworks now playing on screens throughout Times Square a project for which s[edition] served as curatorial partner. (Photo: Ka-Man Tse)
Would art lovers pay up to download a Damien Hirst? So pondered the art and tech worlds in November 2011, when London-based s[edition] opened its digital doors on the eve of Art Basel Miami Beach–having convinced artists such as Hirst, Tracey Emin, Bill Viola, and Shepard Fairey to create original works for a new breed of online gallery. The answer is, apparently, yes.
Founders Harry Blain and Robert Norton have seen the iDevice-wielding masses embrace the concept of collecting art in a digital format and are making inroads into museum collections, placing pieces with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Norway’s Stavanger Art Museum, and creating digital editions in partnership with the Serpentine Gallery and the ICA London. The company is also to thank for the love-themed works by Emin that are now lighting up Times Square on a nightly basis. While in NYC to feel the love, Norton made time to answer our seven questions about how s[edition] works, a new initiative to seek out fresh talents, advice for fellow entrepreneurs, and the artwork he would most like to have on his wall–or screen.
1. How do you describe s[edition] to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
s[edition] works with world leading artists who wish to see their work collected in a digital medium. The online platform offers contemporary art enthusiasts the opportunity to buy original art, at affordable prices. The art is sold as digital limited editions to be viewed on TVs, iPads, iPhones, and digital screens. s[edition] members can browse and acquire works to start their own collection, follow artists, and send limited editions as gifts to friends.
2. s[edition] has been in business for just over a year. How would you characterize the reaction from collectors?
The feedback from our collectors has been fantastic. The prices are very affordable which means we have opened up an entirely new market for collecting digital art. We have an active audience of 400,000 digital art enthusiasts, collectors, and fans.
3. Can collectors resell works they have purchased on s[edition]?
Collectors can resell their editions through an open marketplace after edition runs have sold out. We have found that some collectors will never want to sell their edition while others trade continually.
4. Do you plan to expand the star-studded s[edition] roster to include emerging artists?
This year, we have plans to launch the s[edition] Open Platform, a separate section on the website, where emerging and established artists will be able to submit their art for consideration and be selected by world renowned artists and curators to sell their works online. By opening our platform, we provide these artists with a gateway to a global audience of art enthusiasts. It also enables us to search out new talent. Artists who are interested should email us at email@example.com
5. What lessons or experiences from your previous position as CEO of Saatchi Online have you found most applicable/helpful to your work with s[edition]?
Whereas Saatchi Online was largely a business about helping unrepresented artists enter the art market, s[edition] helps unrepresented collectors. Of course one focused on physical sales entirely, whereas the other leads the emerging world of collecting art in digital format. The important lesson has been to trust one’s own instincts and to take time to craft your story so others enroll in your vision and see a bigger opportunity beyond the attraction of just building another business.
6. What’s the best creative, business, or life advice you’ve received?
I am still learning the whole time but a few words that ring true to me include the following: As an entrepreneur, you need to always be looking at three key relationships, the relationship with your customers/clients, the one with your shareholders/board and also the team you build around you. At the end of the day a business is only as good as the people that work there, so in start-ups you need to take your time to pick the people that share your relentless persistent tenacity to succeed.
7. Finally, if you could own any artwork (digital or otherwise), what would it be?
I am a huge fan of James Turrell and find his light installations incredibly inspiring. They make me pause and connect and I think that is about as good to me as great art gets.