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With videos, high art meets high-tech

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“If you go to major art shows, there’s often more video art than painting,” says Robin Cembalest, executive editor of ARTnews, a leading fine arts magazine. “Most of them are done in editions, so [the dilemma is] not necessarily about exclusivity for collectors. The issue is: What is going to happen when technology evolves so you can’t project video anymore?”

Although experimental film took root starting in the 1920s, the advent of video 50 years later allowed early pioneer artists like Bruce Nauman and Gary Hill to trap and manipulate images for developing themes that weren’t before possible in the world of abstract art.

“Nobody thought of it as a marketable product to start with,” says Donald Young, whose namesake gallery in Chicago became one of the first in the United States to show video art. “Early videos were all unlimited editions because no one thought they could sell.”

Easing collectors into it took rising art stars such as Mr. Nauman and Mr. Hill, who started playing with video after establishing their names in other media.

As technology became more sophisticated, creativity grew. Video artists played sound and installations began to incorporate multiple screens that, depending on how they were choreographed, turned into a powerful way to either distort perspectives or create cohesion.

Over the years, museums and foundations afforded the space and money to mount elaborate video installations, but bringing the art into the living room became more difficult for collectors.

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