Collecting: The Challenges of Video Art

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Flat panel monitor (on right) showing video by Monica Duncan, next to the Schusters' kitchen.
Flat panel monitor (on right) showing video by Monica Duncan, next to the Schusters’ kitchen. Photo Bryan K. Alexander.

Even though Atlanta boasts some committed and accomplished video artists, the medium has a low profile here. One local collector says he has found quality video work priced in the hundreds to a few thousand, which suggests its affordability for the beginning collector. So why don’t more Atlantans acquire video art for their collections?
Diane and David Schuster, who live in northeast Atlanta, have begun a small collection of video art, though they do not consider themselves to be “serious art collectors.” David Schuster says their philosophy is just to have “nice art for our home.” They recently added five works of video art to their collection of paintings and photographs.
Rebecca Dimling Cochran, curator of the Wieland Collection, says there are five video works in the (very private) collection. She sees great promise in the medium’s future in Atlanta, and wonders whether video art will become the preferred medium for the next generation of collectors, given their immersion in moving imagery and their familiarity with advanced technology.
Since the 1960s, artists have been experimenting with video, in both content and form. Cochran notes that video art had to go through the same process that photography went through—the public coming around to the idea that, yes, it is art. She recounts a seminal moment in her understanding of the place of video art in a domestic environment when she visited the home of well-known San Francisco video collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlich, who had installed multiple forms of time-based art in almost every area of their home.
Among Atlanta’s best-known video artists is Danielle Roney, who attended the University of Georgia and has been working in video and multi-media collaborations for over 10 years. Micah Stansell studied at Georgia State University and has shown video work at the High Museum of Art. Amber Boardman studied painting at GSU and lived here until moving to New York in 2007, and then to Sydney, Australia.
Robin Bernat, Real Lush.
Robin Bernat, Real Lush.

Schuster says that several things attract him to video art, including the ability to meet the artists whose work he collects. Single-channel works can easily be shown on one panel. He enjoys a certain iconoclasm in re-purposing a television set as a vehicle for original art. And he finds video art uniquely affordable in comparison to similar quality work in painting and photography.
Potential collectors of video art in Atlanta face some obstacles, however. Stuart Horodner, artistic director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, says that video art is still affected by potential collectors’ lack of familiarity with the medium—how it is editioned, how it is priced, and the terms of presentation attached to purchase. But he says lack of familiarity is an issue for collectors everywhere, not just in Atlanta.
Even at the Contemporary, Horodner says, he knows of no visitors who have inquired about where to purchase video art being exhibited there, even though those artists are nationally or internationally recognized, including Tamy Ben-Tor, Dave McKenzie, and Alix Pearlstein. Horodner notes that Atlanta galleries’ attempts to sell video historically have been modest, which is understandable, he says, given that the collectors he knows haven’t shown much interest in pursuing video.
Micah Stansell, The Water and the Blood, multi-channel video projection, 2012; at the High Museum.
Micah Stansell, The Water and the Blood, multi-channel video projection, 2012; at the High Museum.

According to Horodner, the number of ambitious local collectors and the number of local video artists are relatively small, and that creates less incentive for Atlanta galleries to show video. The resulting lack of exposure, in turn, contributes to the lack of knowledge among potential local collectors who depend on viewing art here.
Robin Bernat, the owner of {Poem 88} gallery, is also a video artist whose works were included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial. One of her gallery artists, P. Seth Thompson, has limited-edition video work available for a reasonable $500. Thompson’s is a single-channel work that easily can be played on a typical home entertainment system. The work’s packaging is designed by the artist and indicates its numbering within the edition, which is typical. Schuster says that his purchases were accompanied by certificates of authenticity.
Marcia Wood Gallery tends to favor painting, sculpture, and photography, but does show a few artists who work in video. Wood applauds anyone who pursues new media. She says that, depending on the level of knowledge and the expectations of the collector, the dealer may need to help the collector find appropriate technological assistance.
Video artists today are most likely to provide their work on DVD. Should the collector be concerned that the DVD may soon be an outmoded vehicle? Both Cochran and Schuster say that if the DVD is superseded, there will be a period of time within which they can convert the DVD to the newer format.
Danielle Roney and Jeff Conefry, Opposing Views, 2011.
Danielle Roney and Jeff Conefry, Opposing Views, 2011.

Shana Barefoot, an artist who is also manager of collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, says that future-proofing video work is an ongoing discussion for both museums and private collectors, but that it is a discussion that occurs around the introduction of any new medium.
Some of the Wieland’s videos are displayed in a computerized projection room, for which Cochran worked with the artists to obtain electronic formats of their works.  The Schusters’ collection is stored on an external hard-drive. A continuous loop of the collection frequently plays on a flat-panel monitor mounted on a wall in a seating area next to the kitchen.
Should  collectors be concerned about the conditions of display that the artists may impose? Cochran says she has found that, 99 percent of the time, the artists want their work to be enjoyed, and they are happy to collaborate on display with a collector.
Video art clips can be found on sites like Vimeo and YouTube, the latter of which allows you to add videos to a playlist and stream several pieces consecutively. Works by Roney, Stansell, and Bernat can be found on Vimeo.
Atlanta certainly is entitled to brag about its rich vein of video art, but local collectors will have to learn ways to mine that gold.
Bryan K. Alexander is a writer who lives in Atlanta and publishes AtlantaArtBlog.com..