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LACMA Launches Fund for the Acquisition of Digital Works by Female Artists

A new acquisition fund for digital works of art by female artists has been unveiled by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). According to a press statement issued by the art institution, the initiative will be led by the TV personality and entrepreneur Paris Hilton. Although the museum said it would not be sharing how much it had been given to initiate the fund by the heiress, it did state that the donation constituted the first of its kind for digital art that LACMA had ever received. In another first, the announcement also marks the debut art buying fund that the former reality TV star has set up with an art institution.

It is fair to say that LACMA already has a significant digital art collection. After all, the museum established its Art and Technology programme in the late 1960s, a move that was way ahead of many art institutions of the time. Among the big names it has in its collection already are the likes of Tony Oursler, Petra Cortright and Ryan Trecartin, to name but three. The new funding budget will represent a move among the museum’s buyers to represent more female names, too. According to Dhyandra Lawson, LACMA’s assistant curator of photography, the current collection acknowledges the current levels of interest in the space where innovation, art and technology meet.

“[The acquisition fund]… will really assist with the augmentation and expansion of our collection in important ways,” she said. Lawson went on to add that the move was particularly astute given that it is ‘an extremely fertile period’ for the creation of digital art at the moment.

In fact, despite the current interest in digital art, LACMA has been collecting it for decades. Although a significant proportion of its collection is made up of works from the 1990s, it has shown interest in acquiring artworks from other periods, too. According to LACMA’s statement on the new fund, there is now a great opportunity to address such historical gaps. “Particularly among women artists, we can go earlier,” Lawson said. The curator added that as human interactions are being increasingly digital, it remains essential that people continue to pay attention to what digital artists have been saying. “This is especially so with digital artists who, for one reason or another have been on the margins, historically,” she said.

To date, LACMA has already commissioned one digital artwork from its fund. In addition, it has purchased a video work, a piece entitled The Question, made this year by the British artist, Shantell Martin. Although it did not need to access its new acquisition fund to buy it, LACMA also said that it had acquired Continuum: Los Angeles. This is a 40-minute video artwork also made this year that it received as a gift. The artist, Krista Kim, made the piece available to LACMA in the form of an NFT, a blockchain-based technology that means the provenance of digital assets can be traced fully. Both The Question and Continuum: Los Angeles will soon feature in an exhibition focussing on digital innovation by women artists. Slated to open in the autumn, this show will be staged at Arizona State University.

LACMA’s fund exclusively focussing on female artists is part of a wider trend in the museum and gallery sector around the world. Increasingly, establishments of its kind want to address gender inequality from the perspective of institutional collections. For example, the Baltimore Museum of Art said just two years ago that it now wanted to acquire works only by women artists and set aside $2.5m to do just that.

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About the author – Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.

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