Tuesday, June 19, 2012

s[edition]: A Blue Ocean Strategy for Art

In the article, Blue Ocean Strategy, the authors write that creating a new market where there is little to no competition requires “the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost.” In the art world, the pursuit of such a strategy is at odds with the nature of the work; if an artwork is priced for very little, it means that the artist is relatively unknown. Additionally, galleries do not compete on price, they compete on the artists they represent. So when s[edition], an art venture launched last year, decided to work around the issues of value perception and artist repute by selling limited edition digital prints, it introduced a truly novel approach towards selling and collecting art.

s[edition] sells prints by world famous artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Shepard Fairey, and Mat Collishaw for as low as $8. The only catch is that there are numerous editions of each work (upto 10,000) and they can only be viewed on digital devices; laptops, LCD TVs, smartphones. So the buyer does not actually purchase a tangible piece of art. 

From a strategic point of view, s[edition] is a classic example of a Blue Ocean strategy. Rather than focusing on rich collectors, it targets young to middle aged art aficionados who could only dream of acquiring artworks by artists such as Hirst or Fairey. At the same time, the idea of working with big name artists to create limited digital editions of their art is both unique and unprecedented. In effect, s[edition] aims to create a new market for a new product.

Today, s[edition] seems to be facing a problem that it perhaps didn’t expect; the sales of its limited digital editions haven’t exactly skyrocketed.The number of editions that have been sold remains staggeringly low, especially when contrasted with the number of editions available. For instance, only 189 out of 10,000 editions of Damien Hirst’s Bognor Blue have been sold. Other editions have seen sales as low as 26 out of 10,000!

This leads to me another article in this week’s readings; Seven Ways to Fail Big. One of these is none other than “betting on the wrong technology.” Has s[edition] erred in thinking that people will spend $8 to $2000 dollars for something they cannot hang on their wall? Something that is not wholly different from downloading an image of an artwork from Wikipedia or Google? Were they right in assuming that at a low price, digital art will trump the physical, more desirable, version?

Personally, I think s[edition] can succeed in its limited edition video series because the concept of purchasing intangible video art is easier to adapt to. As for the static, digital, prints, I cannot say for sure. Maybe s[edition] is remarkably ahead of its time and eventually, the shift towards digital that transformed the camera industry, will also transform the art market.

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