Giotto di Bondone (*c.1267-†1337) is one of the most important artists in the development of Western art. His career began in the time of the great medieval artists (late 13th century), whose stylized Byzantine techniques he soon exchanged for an earthly, natural style. To this day he is celebrated as the father of the Renaissance, because he followed the optical laws of proportion and perspective in his architectural depictions and breathed a hitherto unknown emotional quality into his figures. Giotto’s new realism was already celebrated during his lifetime. Its influence lasted for centuries.
In short, Giotto was innovative and sensational for the time because he broke with old structures and saw the world with completely new eyes. His contemporaries cheered him.
550 years later, Gustave Courbet’s (* 1819, † 1877) new realism met with rejection from bourgeois contemporaries. In his work “The Stonebreakers” he painted the gravity and poverty of the rural existence – road workers like they are, almost life-size. After the workers’ uprisings of 1848, Courbet’s view of the common people was radical. These types of images were suspect to the middle class, which was shaped by a classicist worldview. From today’s perspective, this painting no longer attracts much attention. But in 1855 his works were rejected at the World Expo. With his new style he wanted to express the world of his era. Werner Hoffman therefore described him in 1977 as “the strongest artistic power of the middle of the century”. Today the work is exhibited in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes.
Innovations in art
There are innovative examples in art in all eras and countries. The task of art historians is not only to capture artworks optically, linguistically and creatively, but also to present their cultural significance with knowledge of historical and biographical background. Change plays the main role in this context, because what can be seen in museums today is a symbol for new worldviews and technologies. Art history also sometimes lags behind here.
Innovative thinking artists live more intensely than the rest of society. They observe their surroundings closely and use new techniques to express their ideas. In the case of the fine arts, the results are visual and reflect progress in society, science, and technology. People who are open to new perspectives and who are curious about the future can benefit from these artists. Usually these people are innovators, entrepreneurs, doctors or businessman themselves. The history of reception demonstrates that the dissolution of old viewing habits is always subject to a certain reaction time for the majority of people.
Digital art in the 21st century
Transferred to the current situation, the appreciation is evident on the one hand in the monetary area, as the art of the 20th century sometimes achieved surreal auction results (Modigliani, Picasso, Richter, etc.), while the art of the 21st century – with a few exceptions – has still to fight for its status as a secured investment.
If we speak specifically of digital art as a reaction to the development of new technologies, it is numerically still a small group that has understood digital art as a collector’s item. Digital art has existed in the form of plotter drawings since the 1960s.
Collecting digital art means stepping out of the comfort zone of just hanging works of art on the wall and facing exciting challenges. Digital art contradicts the usual rules of the art market, which is based on the sale or acquisition of objects, because it is about the sale or acquisition of intellectual property.
Innovative art always happens in response to the respective contemporary history. But art also serves to combine opposing values by knowing how to transcend time and boundaries and thus stimulate critical thinking and reflection.
Artists today find themselves in an era where artistic ideas are combined with cutting edge technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, AI, biotechnology and blockchain.
Collecting their work means being part of history!