The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) has launched a new digital art acquisition fund by women artists, created by heiress and celebrity Paris Hilton. The museum declined to share the amount it received from Hilton, but said the donation was the institution’s first of its kind for digital art. It is also the first acquisition fund that the former simple life reality TV star has created an art museum.
Lacma has a strong collection of digital art, with artists such as Tony Oursler, Petra Cortright and Ryan Trecartin represented in its collections. The new fund represents the museum‘s recognition of current levels of innovation around art and technology, according to Dhyandra Lawson, associate curator of Lacma’s photography department.
“It’s an extremely fertile time for digital art,” Lawson says. “We just see tons of innovation by artists in a variety of media. [The fund] will really help us increase and expand our collection in a big way. »
Lacma’s investment in art and technology dates back at least to 1967, when it created its Art and Technology program which has generated collaborations between artists and technology companies. Although this initiative ended in 1971, it was reborn in 2013 as the Art + Technology Lab. The museum has also been collecting digital art for decades, with much of it dating from the 1990s. The fund offers the opportunity to fill historical gaps.
“Certainly we can go earlier, especially with female artists, but we also want to be sensitive to what artists are doing now with a variety of new media,” Lawson says. “As our lives are increasingly digitized, it’s important to pay attention to what digital artists are saying, and especially digital artists who have historically been on the fringes.”
The museum has already commissioned and acquired a video work with the new fund. The question (2022), by British artist Shantell Martin, “uses digital technologies to engage the drawing”, according to a press release. Lacma also announced the acquisition of Continuum: Los Angeles (2022), a 40-minute video received as a gift by its artist, Krista Kim, who is Canadian-Korean. Both works were delivered as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). They will be included in an exhibit examining digital innovation by women artists set to open this fall at Arizona State University.
The acquisition fund is in many ways an unsurprising move for Hilton, which has become one of NFT’s most prominent proponents. The proto-influencer, entrepreneur and DJ has been investing in cryptocurrency since 2016 and proclaimed herself “Queen of the Metaverse”. Buyer of a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, Hilton has also invested in Mad Realities, a company that aspires to be the “Web3 version of Netflix”, and the NFT platform Origin Protocol, where it released its second NFT collection in February. On National Pet Day last year, she introduced her new dogs, named Crypto Hilton and Ether Reum, the latter being a double meaning for the NFT market’s currency of choice, Ethereum, and her husband Carter Reum.
Reum, a venture capitalist, has been a member of Lacma’s board since 2017. The acquisition fund emerged organically through that relationship, according to Lawson. “We just realized we had a mutual interest,” she says. Although the fund’s patron has spoken the most about NFTs, Lawson points out that the money will be used to buy a wide range of artwork. “The acquisition fund is for digital art,” she says. “It’s not an NFT fund.”
The fund’s focus on female artists reflects an ongoing trend in the museum world to address gender inequality in institutional collections. The Baltimore Museum of Art, for its part, has pledged to acquire only works by female artists. in 2020, spending $2.5 million on purchases. But given the price of artwork and the historical bias of buying art by men, achieving gender parity will be a challenge for many institutions. A 2019 study by Artnet News and in other words found that among 26 museums in the United States, only 11% of acquisitions between 2008 and 2018 were works by women artists.