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Digital Art: A Growing Phenomenon in a Global Pandemic

Image: Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Beeple

Art is constantly changing. It develops, evolves, moves forward with new styles and movements. With the recent increasing use of technology, a new form of art blossomed: Digital Art.

Digital Art is the practice of using computers, machines and digital tools to create beautiful and often very realistic paintings – though its hyperrealism arguably improved with time with the thriving of 3D depictions.

In the 90s, artists would film videos and upload them to their computers in order to then change the images they had captured, creating collages and moving images. More recently, digital art has become interactive too, meaning for the piece to achieve its ‘purpose’ the spectator has to be involved, breaking the fourth wall between a painting and its audience.

This year, art lovers and creatives from all around the world were not able to visit museums or go to studios to paint.

“Can digital art be considered to be fine art? What defines the worth of a work? Can it be as valued as any other painting?”

It appears that with the free time that came with lockdowns, our creativity increased: people felt the need to express their emotions and discuss this global pandemic through art, to comfort and reach out to others. More art was created, and more people started sharing art online proudly, bringing artists and spectators together in the more accessible online realm.

In March 2019, an Instagram account called “the Covid Art Museum” was created by three art directors from Barcelona: Emma Calvo, José Guerrero and Irene Llorca. The account quickly gained followers, and currently has more than 165k, with hundreds of pieces being submitted by people every month, in hopes of them being shared. In particular pieces representing COVID-19 are seen – masks and gloves, expressing feelings that were felt during lockdown, such as anger, fear and boredom.

Most of the artworks produced, were indeed works of digital art, and the Covid Art Museum will one day hopefully open as a physical exhibition, rather than just being online.

But can digital art be considered to be fine art? What defines the worth of a work? Can it be as valued as any other painting?

It can. “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” testifies digital art is able to become something more. This collage of digital pieces, collected over the past 13 years, was made by Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple. He produced one piece of art every day, depicting apocalyptic landscapes, futuristic ideas and often referring to political and social issues as well as pop culture. All the different pieces are arranged by theme, size and colour, and they notably represent Beeple’s evolution as a digital artist; with time Beeple learned how to work in 3D, and also slowly became a “political cartoonist”, as he described.

When the Covid lockdown started, Winkelmann delved into the complicated world of cryptocurrency, learning more about ‘Non-fungible tokens’ (NFTs) – which allow to digitally certificate ownership, basically. He then had the brilliant idea to sell his digital artwork with an NFT, realising that people would be willing to pay, a lot.

“Everydays: The First 5000 Days” was sold for $69,346,250. It happened at one of Christie’s auction, and became the first “purely digital artwork” offered at Christie’s with an NFT, besides also being the first piece to be sold with cryptocurrency (Ether). This is promising for digital artists who want to get income out of their hobbies and creativity, especially the ones who have been struggling to sell their art safely on the internet.

This digital aspect is a promise that art can be even more widely appreciated by people who are quite literally all around the world, and for that we can expect digital art to grow further and provide new diverse ways of looking at the world.

Beeple has become another inspiration for young digital artists, who will hopefully be encouraged to continue sharing their work in this new, innovative, and easily accessible way.

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