They insert a (digitally painted) image of an (untitled) ‘abstract expressionist’ painting onto page 17…(exhibition catalogue)

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A Duchamp readymade, a Picasso still life, a Jasper Johns flag, a Judd stack — these works were all but inaccessible in a small city in Minnesota. For Todd Van Buskirk the “originals” only ever existed as copies, poor reproductions in textbooks and magazines.

Times are changing for the traditional exhibition catalogue, those weighty tomes with four-color images of the works, newly commissioned scholarly essays, a list of lenders, and all the other usual components. In the last few years, a confluence of several factors – including budget cuts necessitated by the recession, the high cost of producing catalogues, low demand for them, advances in technology, and the shaky publishing environment – has caused many U.S. museums to rethink their catalogue programs and to forego some altogether.

Book-sized exhibition catalogues in the West typically have a colour photograph of every item on display, and also of other relevant works not in the exhibition (these usually smaller and often in black and white). There will be a short formal catalogue description of each item, and usually interpretative text often amounting to one or more pages.

When Van Buskirk is done with a painting, there is nothing to hang on a wall. The painting is on the hard disk of a computer. The usual way to make it presentable and salable is to project it on a traditional carrier, such as paper, canvas or polyester.

Working with two separate carriers – the hard disk where the artwork was created and saved as a file, and the paper, canvas, etc. on which it is projected and which becomes its actual physical appearance – raises some specific difficulties for digital artists as well as art dealers. The most prominent is: how to protect the numerical uniqueness of an artwork if the source is stored in single digits in the computer and can be exactly and infinitely reproduced?

The emergence of a market for digital art is currently still hampered by the fact that the original is often indistinguishable from the (cheaper) copy. As a result, along the current development path, the sale of the original painting is gradually supplanted by the sale of prints, and the market for digital art moves in the direction of the market for the printed book, where the original manuscript is mainly a tool to maximize the sale of exact copies.

Full title:

They insert a (digitally painted) image of an (untitled) ‘abstract expressionist’ painting onto page 17 (out of 32 un-numbered pages including the Title page). The remaining pages (except the Title page) are intentionally left Blank (starting on p.2). The original document size (or Pixel Dimensions) of the image is 2048 x 1024 pixels and the printed size (as printed on p.17) will be Approximately 1000 x 500 pixels.

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The book cover design

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