Is the market for internet art just waiting to be tapped? Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery director Robert Hult and artist-curator Duncan Malashock have been working for nearly a year to produce a website that’s respected and profitable. Launched last November with a mandate to premiere new work by artists who use the web as their medium, Klausgallery.net exhibits new shows twice monthly and has already built a robust archive of art by Michelle Ceja, Harm van den Dorpel, Billy Rennekamp, and many more. There’s a lot of worthwhile art on the site, but what’s not on there is how the gallery’s creators are developing their sales. I spoke to Hult recently to get a better sense of this end of the project.
Can you talk about how the pricing models differ from work to work? We price all the .net works based on the artists' previous sales, if they have them, and try to keep them in line with their existing price structure—and I would say in the range of their works on paper or editioned works. For the specifically editioned online works, we offer the html files on a flash drive, either in addition to Public Ownership or only on the flash drive. The video works have a high-resolution DVD option as well. So far we've priced works in the hundreds to low thousands range—some of the artists we've worked with have a long exhibition and sales history, some are straight out of undergrad, so we're still feeling it out.
Can you give a brief definition of Public Online Ownership? Public Ownership allows the owners of the work to host the piece online whilst taking an ownership credit on the browser page. It seems to be the most "monetizable" option.
The Public Ownership model reminds me of the plaques that are on the chairs in theaters, or listing donor names on a wall plaque in a museum. It's not quite ownership; it's a public gift, in the for-profit world. Do you think net art collectors buy with social consciousness? That's an interesting analogy, but imagine if all the park bench donors in Central Park could resell their benches on the private market some day. Maybe Public Ownership is more akin to a Sol Lewitt set of instructions—anyone can follow them and make a wall drawing, but there's only one certifiable "Lewitt"—and the very ephemeral assignment of value is attached accordingly. If you really want to nerd out on the price structuring of non-material artworks, I think one interesting take on it is the "Actor Network Theory," which involves value defined by contextualization within a social schema—in addition to the classic supply and demand type stuff, artificial scarcity, etc. So far, I'm not sure social consciousness is involved in collecting net art one way or the other, but we like the idea of democratizing access to great works of art.