What Happened at the First Phillips Digital Art Auction

October 14, 2013 | Marina Galperina

This weekend, digital art went big time. Have you recovered yet?

Most of the digitally-focused artists at Paddles On! have never been inside an auction house before. If curator Lindsay Howard was not at Phillips to give me a tour of all the works for sale before the auction, I am not sure I’d have ventured to this particular Upper East Side-adjacent stretch of Park Avenue.

I have, disappointingly, no uprisings or party-crashing to report. No so-called “net artists” rioted or swung off Addie Wagenknecht’s security-camera-chandelier (sold for $16,000). The auctioneer did not speak in a cartoonish sonic-speed yodeling manner from the movies and the bid shout outs were audible, except for that moment when smiling Franco Mattes ran up to tell me that the auctioneer participated in Franco and Eva’s Emily’s Video worst horrible videos from the internet ever project with me.

A lot of people looked out of place, that with green hair coming out of their non-balding non-male heads (shout out Molly Soda, whose Inbox Full eight-hour fan-mail reading sold for $1,500), establishing Phillips as the most Contemporariest of all major auction houses. After the market was officially informed of the official prices (officially) and the bidding stopped, Anamanaguchi dj-ed politely in the corner, sans laser gun fight.

Alexandra Gorczynski’s PLUR sold — BANG-SOLD!!! — for $9,500. We love it when our friends become successful, and knowing how hard the artist and TRANSFER Gallery prepped and toiled for their big moment, I had nothing but cheers and woos. I’d argue about the implications of working inside the market and the notions of financial validation later, on Twitter, but it’s not exactly a traditional “establishment” auction: Part of profits ($90,000 total) will be donated to Rhizome, with the rest going to the artists and Phillips not taking a cut.

Others like Rafaël Rozendaal and Petra Cortright are already familiar with the market. They’re post-market: With Rozendaal’s website ownership contracts and Petra’s videos previously priced per YouTube view count, they’ve created their own. Despite the novelization, enthusiastic pomp and pump, Cortright’s aluminum abstract canvas sold for more than the video. People like to buy things that look like paintings.

“It was more exciting than I expected,” Rozendaal said after the auction. Petra was not present.

(Video picture: Marina Galperina/ANIMALNewYork; video edit: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)