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Download your own Deller: Own Art give away 10,000 digital editions…

16 July 2014

Anyone can become an art collector. Or says Own Art, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary by releasing a digital animation commission by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller that can be downloaded for free.

Own Art is an Arts Council England initiative whose pitch is to make ‘buying art easy and affordable by letting you spread the cost of your purchase over 10 months with an interest-free loan’. It focuses on contemporary art and craft, of which more than £25 million items have been purchased from over 250 participating galleries nationwide (in London, The Photographer’s Gallery, London Glassblowing Studio, Bankside Gallery and the ICA are amongst those listed).

Over 30,000 people have used the now decade-old scheme, and Deller’s commission is set to potentially give a third of this number the opportunity to start a fledgling art collection – on their computer. Deller’s animation is based on one of the works he presented at the British Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale (the subsequent touring exhibition, ‘English Magic’ is moving from Bristol to Margate’s Turner Contemporary for its final leg on 11 October).

A limited edition (of sorts), the animation will be split into 10,000 stills available to download online as individual works of art, with a simple online newsletter sign-up giving access to the relevant link.

Own Art are challenging many of the ‘traditional’ elements of art collecting with this work, beside the financial. Its digital nature does away with limiting factors such as storage, physical collection and means of acquisition, but raises questions about these issues in the same gesture.

The stills are being marketed as ‘instantly obtainable’ artworks, but does this instantaneity detract somehow from their merit as collectible items? And at what stage does a limited edition start to seem somewhat meaningless? Due to the mode of delivery and lack of physicality, how many of these 10,000 new collectors will choose to print and mount their freeze frame, and how many will use it as their new screensaver?

Whether Jeremy Deller’s clout – the artist won the Turner Prize for Memory Bucket, a documentary about the Texan town of Crawford, in 2004 – will encourage other prominent video artists to make their work similarly collectible remains to be seen. Yet for purist collectors, possessing this form of still might seem as futile as owning the top left square centimetre of the canvas occupied by Vermeer’s leading lady. Will 10,000 new digital collectors beg to differ?

On July 19 the animation will be premiered live on screens in Westfield London and Westfield Stratford.