How Digital Art Rental and Blockchain Intersect


Many artists working in digital media/video art today are faced with the reality that it is not the easiest medium to place from a business perspective. Sure, video installations can be wonderfully engaging and immersive for viewers in a gallery or exhibition environment, but how often do they result in purchase outside of the institution?

For artists, sales are necessary for survival, especially in a climate where funding for the arts continues to evaporate. That’s why the new initiative, Sugar Glider Digital, offers a future for the medium. This is a video art order/rental model, provided by Art Pharmacy using a subscription system and taking blockchain authenticity into account.

“The artwork subscription model helps customers access quality artwork for display directly on workplace screens and in the public domain,” said the Art Pharmacy Founder. , Emilia Colliver.

“It’s about making art more accessible for easy consumption through rental…I want to remove the complexities of acquiring digital art, maintain a focus on the physical realm, and foster community, sustainability and connection,” she said.

Renting or leasing original artwork is nothing new in Australia. Artbank – a government agency with offices in Sydney and Melbourne – has been doing so since 2009, when Artbank’s video art collection was launched by then Arts Minister Peter Garrett.

A search showed that 106 video works are in their collection and available for rental.

Zoë Rodriguez, director of Artbank since 2019, told ArtsHub: ‘106 works do not constitute a significant portion of Artbank’s artwork in the collection. As for the demand, it is gradually increasing.

Rodriguez said some corporate clients rented video art from Artbank nearly a decade ago. She continued the trends that Artbank and Colliver have jointly observed: “In COVID [times] there have been more and more ideas of lending these works to overseas missions – because it’s something to be blown out the windows to the public, and because it can circumvent transport costs incredibly swollen that resulted from the pandemic.

“In recognition that this is an area that needs promotion/support for customers to get used to, this is the only medium for which we have rental fees capped at 600 $ per year. So it’s very good value for money!” Rodríguez said.

Likewise, Colliver is increasing the flexibility of its new platform. With Sugar Glider, you can rent a piece of digital art from one night to several months. They will also organize digital programs around seasonality, for example NAIDOC week or Chinese New Year, and customers can sign up for a three-month subscription.

Colliver noted that over the past few decades, many companies have sold off their art collections as shareholder liability increased, and that video art was a way to engage audiences and staff without the big bucks. collection expenses.

“A lot of our customers are trying to bring their staff back to the office – they’ve all settled in well at home. And with staffing shortages in a global pandemic, companies want a space people want to come in and engage with. Having massive screens with the same content playing over and over doesn’t do it anymore,” Colliver said.

Art Pharmacy, digital project with Dexus. Credit Hilary Walker

Where Sugar Glider Digital is different is that it uses blockchain technology and uses a unicorn in the Web3 platform.

After managing seven major digital orders through Art Pharmacy, Colliver said she thinks the idea of ​​digital art rental is scalable. “It’s like the tail falling off the lizard, it’s his business.

“I’ve noticed that customers are asking more and more questions about digital artwork. And with the rise of NFTs, I decided to dive deep and explore the whole new world of NFT art,’ Colliver told ArtsHub.

She continued: “And the timing with advances in blockchain – which lends authenticity to projects, just as Sothebys or Christies might offer a chain of provenance on a work of art – has meant that it can also be international. in its outlook.

“While there’s been a pick-up in the hype with conversations around NFTs and blockchain, there haven’t been many true adopters,” Colliver said, a situation she says is in full swing. partly due to an ingrained skepticism in Australia.

“Blockchain technology enables this transparency, [and] Web3 technology allows people to see where the royalties are going,” she added.

NFT a Catalyst to Rethink Digital Art Rental

Sugar Glider Digital is part of a Launchpad Luna program with support from the Brinc team and investment from Animoca Brands, a platform that supports startups and fosters NFT innovation in various fields including arts, culture and entertainment.

Colliver just entered an accelerator program with Animoca Brands, where they received seed funding.

“Think of it as if you were in the sandbox or doing a masters program on NFTs with mentors from around the world, where we talked about video art and the metaverse and why it’s good for artists “, she said.

Sugar Glider’s soft launch will take place on June 28. This comes at a time when, globally, cryptocurrency has plunged and NFTs are being questioned for their longevity.

“What we’re doing is not to abandon all that front end work, but to keep the foundations that are really great and come back to it from a different position,” Colliver told ArtsHub.

“The thing is, with NFTs, we’re in it for the long haul. Of course, there are plenty of cowboys in space. When I started researching, I asked myself, “Do I really want to get into this? But if you think about the first dot com internet boom and crash in the 90s, then it came back stronger than ever. And look today.

“You have to build a business to ride out these recessions and booms,” Colliver continued. “I see a lot of heat in the market. What is happening in the United States is incredible; it doesn’t really happen here, and maybe that’s because our population is smaller.

A month in Web3 space is two years in the real world; it’s really hard to keep up. It’s been a wild ride, but a journey that I’m so excited to be on.

Emily Colliver, Founder Art Pharmacy and Sugar Glider

Colliver will travel to America and deep into NFT territory to bring the latest learnings to Australia’s cultural landscape.

“We are already talking to shopping mall customers in Singapore. Sugar Glider is not just a rental agency; it’s about bringing in artists to create new digital artwork… and if you’re an artist working in 2D and I want to digitize your work, we have an animator to use your artwork. The copyright stays with the artist, and they get a royalty for showing it.

“In a lot of developments we see these big digital screens, but they don’t think about the content moving forward.” She sits within the Environment and Social Governance of real estate developers. We provide this central place to get content.

“At the end of the day, it’s about more money for artists,” Colliver concluded.

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