The art market has already got to grips with the ephemeral nature of contemporary artworks. For our purposes it matters little whether these solutions are compromises, or in some cases, not terribly functional. The “Black Box” came about with the aim of offering a safe haven for the temporal nature of video, enabling it to be experienced over time; performance and conceptual art have learned to use methods of documentation (photography, video) and in some cases, certification. Even rapidly obsolete media have found a protocol: old film reels or VHS videos have migrated onto digital media, possibly also being restored in the process. Organic materials can be replaced, as can neon tubes. Sometimes it can be impossible to replace the original material: this was the case for Dan Flavin, who used a particular shade of red in his neon installations which has been withdrawn from the market due to toxicity. It was a fairly predictable outcome, but did not overly trouble his collectors. Hirst knows his sharks’ days are numbered but the artist’s popularity is not suffering as a result. Or it might be suffering, but for different reasons.
The issue of the “technical reproducibility” of works of art has also found a solution: photographs and videos sold in limited editions. Not even the digitalization of the image has challenged this convention, as absurd as this might seem. The fact of the matter is that those who collect works of art, be they museums or private individuals, do not let things like this stand in their way – unless they are convinced of the low cultural or financial value of the work in question. In other words, if New Media Art is struggling in market terms, this is not due to the aforementioned issues, but because there are still doubts over its value as art. Once again, it comes down to a question of appeal, a question that is influenced both by the technology and generation gap, the difficulties faced by traditional criticism and resistance to the New Media paradigm. If I have to choose between two things I have my doubts over, I will go for the one that offers more guarantees in terms of conservation and uniqueness. Such as a painting, for example.