Martin Roth says Brexit is a reason for his sudden resignation from the V&A

Martin Roth © Thierry Bal
Martin Roth, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) since 2011, announced his resignation on 5 September. This came as a surprise, since it had been expected that he would carry on, possibly for another four years until he turns 65. When the news broke, Roth had no idea that just three days later Nicholas Serota would be announcing his departure from the Tate. Their resignations will have a fundamental change on Londons museum scene. In the week of Roths departure, he spoke to us very frankly about the ups and downs of his five years in London.

The Art Newspaper: Did you resign over Brexit?

Martin Roth: It was just an element, but definitely an element. Brexit was about telling people lies, Little England coming back, new nationalism returning to Europe, xenophobia, hate crimes. I had always thought about staying in London when I retired. But do I want to stay and then perhaps eventually have to apply for a visa?

Should UK museum directors have spoken out against Brexit before the referendum?
In hindsight, I think we should have done more together. We have to take greater responsibility politically, although not in a party political sense. It is part of our job to publicly defend a civil society and the values of the past. It is not just objects we have in our collection, but values.

We represent a history, and values represent the way we live together. One of the reasons why I am such a fan of the V&A is that Prince Albert and [the founding director] Henry Cole were outspoken in supporting education for the proletariat. They wanted to change society and education was a tool.

Museums are now supporting the mayor, Sadiq Khan, in his London is Open campaign.
It is a great slogan. But if it is a vision without being executed, then it is just hot air.

What are your other reasons for leaving the V&A?
I have been here for almost exactly five years. I came with a five-year plan of what I wanted to achieve. We now have record visitor figures. Galleries have been refurbished, most recently Europe 1600-1815. We have partnerships with new museums in Dundee and Shenzhen [China]. V&A East is being set up on the former Olympic site in East London. These achievements culminated with the Art Funds Museum of the Year award in July.

What more needs to be done?
On the curatorial side, we need to get more younger people on the staff. A lot of curators have been here for a very long time.

The most important reason why I wanted to join the V&A was its collection. But it is question of how you work with that collection. Our collection is a knowledge bank. We have to open it to the public, practitioners, the media, studentsin both digital and physical ways.

Museums are completely changing right now. We should have the curated, exhibited collection and the accessible collection in storage, although I dont like the word storage. That is what we will see in five to ten years from now. I was fighting very strongly in that direction. There are some in the museum who are more open to this idea than others, who are more conservative.

Did you find it more difficult or easier coming in as a European?
When I arrived I asked Mark Jones, my predecessor, for advice. He said Dont try to be British, and that was the best advice. I had more freedom to be completely different.

When I came I didnt know what the class system represented in Britain. It took me a long time to understand what it means in daily life.

I said at the beginning that we needed efficient and effective management. It was difficult for me, although there were a few trustees who really supported me extremely well. Sometimes people had a knife in my back, but overall I was well received. I soon felt at home.

The first year-and-a-half was really difficult for me personally because I had to make management changes. After that it was not exactly easy, but easier. When Tim Reeve arrived as deputy director he was an amazing help.

What are your plans?
I will be living in Berlin and Vancouver. I am not looking for another position as a museum director or consultancies but I am definitely going to be active in the future, partly serving on boards. I am on the boards of the Goethe-Institut and the Expo 2020 Dubai. From next June I will be chairing Germanys Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations.

I want to be more engaged in a political sense. I am starting to work in Germany with an initiative called Offene Gesellschaft [Open Society].

How do feel about leaving London?
I love London and the V&A. I have spent 14 hours a day here or in economy [seats] in airplanes working for the museum. If I didnt love the place, I wouldnt have done that. It will be difficult to leave. I have never liked a city so much. For me, London is the cultural capital of the world, perhaps together with New York.

You leave in late October and your successor will not arrive until next spring? Why are you going so soon?
Its like a love affair. Once you split, you dont want to share the kitchen table.

Luxurious embroidery of the Middle Ages returns to England

Between the 12th and 15th centuries, across Medieval Europe, English embroidery was widely revered. Opus Anglicanumthe Latin phrase for English work, which denotes this specific era of luxurious needleworkwas commissioned and collected by Popes, foreign cardinals and peers at home and abroad.

One set of garments, known as the Hlar Vestments (around 1200), belongs to the National Museum of Iceland, but is coming to Londons Victoria and Albert Museum for the exhibition Opus Anglicanum, which opens this month. The show presents 100 pieces of handmade work (including illuminated manuscript pages and livery badges), such as the Toledo Cope, which belongs to the Catedral Primada de Santa Maria in Spain and returns to England for the first time since the early 14th century. It is really an exhibition about English art, but on a European stage, says Glyn Davies, the shows co-curator. Here, we look at three highlights from the exhibition.

The show is supported by the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts and the embroiderer Hand & Lock.

Detail from the Jesse Cope (around 1310-25)

Copes, which are worn by clergymen for specific ceremonies (but never for Mass), are semicircular in form, which gave Medieval embroiderers the challenge of designing patterns that spread elegantly across the whole of the shape. Depictions of foliage were a simple solution. Fortunately, there is a Medieval subject that lends itself to plant forms, which is the Tree of Jesse, Davies says. The theme shows a family tree of the ancestors of Christ, beginning with Jesse, the father of King David.

The Dunstable Swan Jewel (around 1400)

This tiny livery badgeit is only 3.4cm tallwas excavated from Dunstable Priory in 1965. It is a rare early example of a technique developed in late 14th-century France that enabled jewellers to encase gold in white enamel. The swan and gold chain motif was used as a badge by the Bohun family, whose members married well. There is a description of another badge that would have looked just like this in the inventory of Richard II, says the exhibitions co-curator, Glyn Davies.

The De Lisle Psalter (around 1320)

This work comes from an illuminated manuscript that belonged to the Medieval English peer Robert de Lisle. It is notable partly because of the artist behind it: known only as the Madonna Master, he may also have painted works on the Bishops throne at Westminster Abbey. He seems to be working on a larger scale as well, and seems also to have been involved in panel painting and wall painting, Davies says, adding that some scholars have suggested that he may have been involved in designing embroideries.

Opus Anglicanum, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1 October-5 February 2017

Hélio Oiticica: the artist who made relaxing into a work of art

When the late Brazilian artist Hlio Oiticica unveiled Eden, a sprawling installation, at Londons Whitechapel Gallery in 1969, the public did not know quite what to make of it.  It is certainly a long way from those art exhibitions consisting only of pictures and labelled Dont touch, one perplexed critic wrote at the time.

This month, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh plans to restage Edencomplete with a pool of water, sandy floors and a calvacade of closet-size roomsas part of a travelling retrospective co-organised with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. It is billed as the most comprehensive show of the artists work to date.

When he showed Eden in London, Oiticica encouraged visitors to walk across stones, lie on beds of straw and crawl into a tent to listen to music and read magazines for as long as they liked. Eden was the expression of creliesure, an important idea he was developingthat you need time to rest and think in order to create, says Lynn Zelevansky the director of the Carnegie. The installation will take over the museums Hall of Sculpture and will be reconstructed with help from the artists nephew, Csar Oiticica Filho, curator of the Projeto Hlio Oiticica in Brazil.

Generations of artists who come after him use the forms he pioneered, Zelevansky says. But Im not sure anyone has done anything more ambitious than Eden.

The show is sponsored in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Hlio Oiticica: to Organise Delirium, Carnegie Museum of Art, 1 October-2 January 2017

New museums: the rise of cryptic cathedrals of the cosmos

The Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris hosted the conference ©Iwan Baan/Fondation Louis Vuitton/Gehry Partners

Today, the museum continues to evolve in different directions as vigorously as the art market fluctuates. The growth is not unpredictable but is certainly divergent, as if curators and museum directors were competing as much as artists in trying to pre-empt the zeitgeist. Since the millennium, stylistic trends have remained oppositionalneutral white cube versus context-specific design, or monist versus pluralist expression. New contrasts have emerged, and social forces still drive this increasing diversity, as much as the $60bn art market.

For The Art Newspaper in 2000 I summarised some of those forces behind the culture industry. They produced that recognisable type, the iconic building and its mega-collections, the Bilbao Effect, which rust-belt cities tried to induce. At least for architects, this was liberating, allowing them to experiment with unusual freedom. By 2005, most global capitals, especially sovereign funds on the Oil Road to China, sought starchitects (when this epithet caught on) to further their fortune. Their names appeared on Wikilists, as predictably as the top 100 artists who dominated the world art market. I ended my millennial survey with the hope that the Spectacular Museum would face its spectacular contradictions with a more complex architecture; and that it would take on a more spiritual role in a post-Christian age, left by the collapsing church. After all, the museum as cathedral has been a clich for over a hundred years, and we live in a time when our new cosmic world view has become public and known globally. Face up to the realities or suppress them?

Modern architects committed to abstraction, and a universal language based on technology, have for the most part avoided such questions. They continue to feature generic solutions but, at the same time, are not immune to the Bilbao Effect. Renzo Pianos new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is the typical result, neutral in its techno-realism but captivating in the way it performs in the industrial city by the Hudson River, its framed views of skyscrapers and its cascade of terraces over the High Line. Modernist neutrality is the ide fixe of Minimalists and the best way to face an agnostic audience, so it is no surprise that it still dominates museum design either as the white cube or the industrial shed. However, the more sophisticated media-driven audience can find this detachment underwhelming or even retro, a complaint heard about the new Whitney and so much other Modernist work. David Chipperfields Jumex Collection in Mexico City and Herzog & de Meurons Prez Museum in Miami are both decent and inventive essays in the already said and, like Pianos industrial vernacular, city-oriented icons. They all punctuate museum fatigue with fantastic glimpsed views outside, leaving the iconic role to nature, the city or the well-framed art.

Minimalist masters

Masters of the Minimalist museum show what architects have known since Le Corbusier celebrated the beauties of Purism and the sacral nature of reduction. Mies van der Rohe worshipped almost nothing in architecture, and the presence of the absence has been a positive goal of two recent movements, Late Modernism and Negative Theology. All this is evident in lvaro Sizas Portuguese museums, Peter Zumthor and his Swiss reductions, and particularly Kazuyo Sejima with her Louvre Lens. Here, the eliminative strain of Cistercian architecture is taken to a new level of absence where the background to art all but disappears yet still gives shelter and excitement.      

David Chipperfield is known for his Minimalism, so it is a surprise that his Neues Museum in Berlin (2009) has led the Post-Modern movement towards a new departure of what I have called the Time City. Here past, present and future are all mixed creatively, with different techniques employed for particular parts; many site-specific architectures, as it were. The Time City as a concept is as old as the palimpsest and the reuse of past fragments in new ways; its a transformative role for the past, not a passive revivalism.

Finished at the same time was Wang Shus Ningbo History Museum. Its a similar collage of fragments from the past, appropriate to the buildings role of summarising local culture, now being destroyed by turbo-charged capitalised-communism. A friend of Ai Weiwei, who was also using historical spoliation ironically and politically, Wang immediately won the top Chinese architectural award in 2009, and the Pritzker in 2012. His museum introduced at a stroke a new, peculiar beauty, the completely cannibalised corps exquis of individual elements. This industrial scale ad-hocism, Wang argued, was less expensive than modern prefab production methods, and could be representational as well. The corner tilted volumes reflect nearby mountains, the undulating tiles collaged in the walls recall the sea and its importance for Ningbo, and its past is echoed by the use of bamboo shuttering and the millions of bricks from a tradition being bulldozed into oblivion. Like Ai Weiweis polemical reuse of history in a radical present this becomes a paradoxical time-bender: a MOCA (museum of contemporary art) of the past, making the point that spoliation has its own kind of memorialising beauty and economy. Wang calls his group Amateur Architecture Studio and it is fascinating that another polemical collective working far from the centre of power and money, We Architech Anonymous (WAA) has produced another world-class museum, the Yinchuan MOCA in the north-western province of Ningxia Hui. With its twists, warps and symbolic references to the sea in white GRP (glass reinforced plastic) panels, it is one more oblique reference to nature in general (and similar to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). Perhaps in both these important Chinese museums, the past and a generalised spiritual content is more easily expressed in the periphery than the centre of power.      

Koolhaas the surrealist

Herzog & de Meurons CaixaForum in Madrid, started in 2001 and finished in 2008, shows that it takes time and careful patience to bring off a convincing mixture of eras and meaning. What starts as practical reuse can end as expensive but brilliant opposition of moods, like a cathedral built over centuries. This museum (more a kunsthalle of contemporary art) is perhaps the most resolved and musical expression of the Time City to date.

Rem Koolhaas followed with two stunning essays in the genre, Moscows Garage, a collage of a 1960s collectivist restaurant with a giant grid of elevated walls that reveal Gorky Park to all sides. Flat translucent polycarbonate walls play a leading roleindustrial-scale glistening plastic planes rise up or fall down over the art pilgrims.

More convincing, because more complex at the city scale, is his Fondazione Prada in Milan, also completed in 2015. This is a stunning amalgam of vertical and horizontal blocks, and fragments from the past. A haunted house painted in gold leaf contains private galleries devoted to individual artists, versus a set of pitched-roof galleries devoted to art movements, versus a great hall reused from the past (reminiscent of the Pompidou Centre and its giant multi-use space). As he juxtaposes one use and era with another, Koolhaas the Surrealist is, of course, reminting the old game of le corps exquis. The whole Prada makeover thus has an uncanny air. It is at once like the heyday of Italian Neorealismo film and Goldfinger, Arte Povera and utopian industry. Finally, the articulation of difference reaches the complexity of contemporary reality: todays mega-museum really is a mixture of hype, hope, passion and banal bigness.

Cosmic metaphors

Many Modernists have left the high church and adopted the iconic genre for all sorts of reasons. I. M. Pei, in his late period, has sought a seamless mixture of past and present in his Chinese and Doha museums, but what they gain in suavity they lose in personality. Chipperfield has, by contrast, found the perfect foil for his Minimalist sensibility in the Hepworth Wakefield, a good example of the artist-led museum where the work and its sympathetic display really do become what all artists must hope for; the perfect frame and accompaniment to their message.

Two striking transformations of a Modernist into identity-led Post-Modernist are Jean Nouvel and Norman Foster. The former had a hint of this change to come with his Institut du Monde Arabe in 1987, with its brise soleil based on photovoltaic shutters that, like a camera-eye, closed down in Islamic patterns to vary the light. In 2010 he designed the new National Museum of Qatar based on the local desert rose, with intersecting blade-like petals of steel covered in sandy gypsum. As with his Louvre Abu Dhabi, a billion-dollar building probably opening next year, the Post-Modern double-coding is explicit. Nouvel intends to mirror a protected territory that belongs to the Arab world and this geography; to provide an oasis of light under a spangled dome at night (like his 1987 building but now with Islamic patterns overlayed). He wants it to provide a rain of light of 8,000 stars, reminiscent of mashrabiya windows and the beams of light that illuminate the souks; he wants to recall the traditional falaj canals and use water to reflect light upwards on this vast flying saucer of a dome with its 2,000 ft circumference: The white dome is their symbol for sacred spaces. A museum is a spiritual place, even if it isnt connected to religion.

Indeed, spirituality existed for 70,000 years before organised religion, if anthropologists hunches about Africa are right. Todays shift from particular religions to a generalised spirituality is a global trend noted by architects as well as theologiansDaniel Libeskind has spoken about it since his design for Berlins Jewish Museum in the 1990s. It is most evident in the way the iconic museum employs connotations to nature and the cosmos. Since Norman Foster has been designing icons, such as the Berlin Reichstag dome and London Gherkin, roughly one-third of his recent large buildings have employed a mixture of allusive metaphors and explicit references to nature. His Zayed National Museum, near Nouvels Louvre in Abu Dhabi, is basically an energy-saving design with five steel wing-tips providing the natural ventilation as they soar above a tiered gardenhousing the museumto catch the breeze. The wings become an explicit memorial to the late Prince Zayed and his love of falconry, as much as the ecological structures become cosmic metaphors.

Mother Nature

Nature and the universe are never far away from the architects mind when designing the most visible or expensive buildings today. The cynical reason is that megabuildings cannot hide and must look like something more than a dumb box, so, in a fiercely secular age, the default mode must be nature, sustainabilitythe most unimpeachable of faiths. Foster, Nouvel, Libeskind and starchitects are as aware of this fact as startists (to coin a phrase), but they are also positively inspired by wave forms, fractal shapes, indeed any forms of self-organisation that emerge in the cosmos. This perennial love of natures patterns is built into architecture because its structures and details derive from the laws of nature, are biomimetic from birth. Hence when clients are confused, society does not know what buildings should look like, religions have lost their credibility and the mediated celebrity age has become dominant, the only saviour left is Mother Nature. That, in a nutshell, is why the contemporary museum is looking like the Cosmic Cathedral today, with a difference. The imagery must also be allusive, suggested, connotative because there is no global religion or equivalent ideology to back up an explicit iconography.

This is why most of the iconic museums since the year 2000 are Cryptic Cathedrals that diffuse their general spirituality through multiple metaphors that only suggest nature. Peter Cook and Colin Fourniers Kunsthaus in Graz is a floating body with many eyes or appendages waving to the north-light, a friendly alien as it is known. Coop Himmelb(l)aus Muse des Confluences in Lyon is not only a confluence of two rivers and movement, but it is cloud and crystal and geological strata all wrestling inside the body of another friendly alien. Moshe Safdies Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas is, as its name proclaims, another crystal metaphor (probably the most shared icon in todays architecture); here it is mixed with organic and fluid similes, especially because it is designed around creeks and ponds. With Snhettas new expansion of SFMOMA the architects refer to the white undulations as recalling the fog and mists of the city, though most people might see these ripples with black cracks as more like white cliffs broken by horizontal strata. Indeed, the geological metaphor comes naturally to architecture, augmented by John Ruskins many sermons on its religious relevance for man.

Perhaps the most vigorous set of metaphors struggling together is Frank Gehrys Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, a direct descendant of his previous Bilbao Effect in important ways. It reuses the grammar of fluid vesica shapes, now in transparent glass not glistening titanium. These curved shapes recall the shells of the Sydney Opera Houseand shells are good structural formsas well as the pleats of sails and spinnakers, ever a Gehry image because of his love of sailing. Looked at in plan or from the air, the mixture of blocky functions and glassy shells becomes clear. The opposition can include minimal white and black cubes, utilitarian and cheap space, and contrast them with free-form sails. It also becomes apparent, from views through the woods, that Gehrys eruptive body twists slightly towards its head, that these billowing shards of glass, with their tectonic pleats, move like a slouching beast away from the roadside traffic. The body may not be as common a metaphor with contemporary icons as the crystal and geological strata, but faces, arms, buttocks and breasts have been suggested since the time of Le Corbusiers Ronchamp Chapel, the first great icon of Post-Modernism, back in 1955.

There is much to say in favour of Gehrys work in his late style, and against the waste of good sculptural space under the glass sails, but this is not the place. The more general point is the way the building typifies the overall evolution of recent museums towards the Cosmic Cathedral that is at once suggested yet still not named. It is one more Monument to the Unknown Meaning, of a building type that cannot speak its spiritual mission yet cannot resist implying it with all its might and money. In the way that De Chirico, a century ago, said he painted the enigma, perhaps, like so much contemporary art, it is the enigmatic signifier that it signifies most clearly.

Getting digi with it: how the art world is grappling with new media

In Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Surface Tension (1992) a giant human eye follows viewers around the room using video tracking. Photo: Maxime Dufour.

Artists working in new media have never been so widely admireda generation of artists in their 20s and 30s, including Amalia Ulman, Neil Beloufa, Ian Cheng, Jon Rafman and Ccile B. Evans, are now shown internationally. Exhibitions have also moved beyond specialist kunsthallen such as ZKM in Karlsruhe, V2 in Rotterdam and YCam in Yamaguchi, Japan. Digital art was the subject of a major show, Electronic Superhighway, at the Whitechapel Gallery in London this spring, and the focus of this summers Berlin Biennale. Meanwhile, the New Museum in New York, which has digital art specialists Rhizome in residence, is working with the Hong Kong-based K11 Art Foundation on an exhibition on art and technology, due to show in China next year.

Yet a quarter of a century after the emergence of digital art, it continues to raise challenges for museums, galleries and collectors. As the Serpentine Galleries in London reveal their third digital commission, James Bridles Cloud Index, we look at some of the reasons why digital art is still not fully in the mainstream.

The artist: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer emerged in the 1990s from the performing arts: a piece in the Whitechapels Electronic Superhighway showa giant eye that follows visitors around the room (Surface Tension, 1992)began within a set design for a dance work. At the end, we would invite the audience to participate; they realised that the eyes movement wasnt a projection timed to the dancers. Suddenly they werent passive spectators, they couldnt escape the tracking device. That was a pivotal moment for me, he says.

Despite the fact that he is preparing for survey shows in Brazil, Korea and Canada, he says there remains a big disconnect between media art and established museums. At first, museums thought it was simply playful or that they were buying into Silicon Valley hype, like the idea that technology is going to emancipate us all. Now, he says, museums realise that technology is inevitableif our economy, war, politics and relationships are mediated through globalised networks of computer control, its natural to use media to express poetry or criticism.

But if Lozano-Hemmer feels that artists have less need to justify their choice of media, he believes that they must professionalise their practice. Collectors worry about the future of their acquisitions: how does a work that can be copied multiple times have a value? How do they deal with works built with software that, through rapid updating, effectively disappears? What about hardware: is a particular monitor integral, or just a piece of kit that can be replaced with whatever is current when it fails? How much does an idea matter, how much its physical realisation?

Lozano-Hemmer has become a powerful advocate for addressing these issues before a work is sold. When you acquire one of my works you get a bill of materials and it says this work is made out of this screen, this motor, this software and so on, and it tells you if this is replaceable, and if yes, what are the constraints. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and Tate in London are among the museums that have used the source code of his works to update them to current platforms, demonstrating that his studio need not be involved in the update. So the artist has to try to pre-emptively think what is acceptable and unacceptable for a work, effectively, to be re-performed, he says. He also regularly attends conservation conferences, has drafted best-practice guidelines for fellow artists, and is developing new business models for studios to encourage them to offer conservation support for their own work.

The museum director: Benjamin Weil

The Tate in London, MoMA and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) have been at the leading edge of disentangling the intellectual and practical challenges posed by digital artthanks in part to the support of the New Art Trust, founded in 1997 by the Californian media art collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlich. Their advice platform, Matters in Media Art, was updated in September to provide the latest information for collectors, artists and institutions in caring for works with moving image, electronic or digital elements.

Benjamin Weil, the artistic director at the Botn Centre in Santander, Spain, argues that the issues surrounding new media art are not fundamentally different from the problems of conceptual art. His epiphany was a sculpture by Tinguely, which was displayed motionless, with a video next to it. Tinguelys project was to have sculpture in movement, but here you didnt have the weird noises, you didnt have the eerie feeling seeing this monstrous object moving in space. The preservation of the work had become more important than the artistic intent.

Museums have been left with problems like this because they acquired works in the past without establishing with artists how to deal with decay and obsolescencecombined with institutions ingrained resistance to accepting sometimes you have to let a work die. The crucial issue now, Weil says, is that contemporary artists do not compound the situation. Artists using technology cant say, Its not our responsibility to take care of the work, its yours. We in museums have to say, We cant look after the work without you, we want to be sure that whatever decision we are going to make will not betray you.

The digital commissioner: Ben Vickers

Ben Vickers is the curator of digital at the Serpentine in London. The gallery has just launched its latest commission, a complex work on the nature of the cloud and voting patterns by the journalist, writer and artist James Bridle.

Vickers says that digital commissions present particular challenges. In March this year, the gallery launched Bad Corgi, a strange computer game/mindfulness app by the New York-based artist Ian Cheng. While Vickers describes Cheng as a genius he also says that the year he spent working with the artist was one of the most difficult things Ive done. One of the issues, he says, is the time spent working on software, because its in the production of the software that the ideas emerge, adding that Cheng made, then rejected, a number of prototypes. With programmers commanding high day rates, the whole thing is expensiveindeed, Vickers himself helped with some of the coding.

Curators with a comprehensive understanding of technology are rare, which can add extra risk to projects. This gallery has years of experience of making exhibitions. But when you are working with an artist and they need someone who knows about epigenetics and can also write code, thats not something that most art museums know how to deal with. Digital curators have to build their own networks with the tech world and universities to find the help they need.

The commercial gallery: Steven Sacks

Artists working in new media are generally represented by specialist galleries such as bitforms gallery in New York and Carroll Fletcher in London, or by smaller, emerging galleries.

Steven Sacks is the founder of bitforms gallery, one of the earliest to specialise in new media. He will celebrate the gallerys 15th birthday with an exhibition in San Francisco in November: unusually, he represents several generations of artists, from the 78-year-old Manfred Mohr to artists born in the 1980s such as Sara Ludy. He describes his start as challenging but says he saw the potential of what was possible and how art would evolve with each generation of technology.

Sacks says that although prices for work by top digital artists are still low compared with the equivalent painters (which are exponentially more expensive), it can also represent an opportunity. Computational, screen-based, interactive media is the most exciting development in the past five to ten years, he says. It is still a challenge because the market for this work is smaller than for traditional work: but it is the next big leap forward in the way artists can present their ideas.

He also says the emergence of high quality yet more affordable 4K screens is proving attractive to collectors. In many cities, even at the very top end, apartments are not vast: in the past very thin screens were really expensive, but now a 75in, 4K screen is accessible, andas long as the artist hasnt specified otherwiseyou could rotate single channel video works and generative pieces on the same screen. He is also involved in the creation of a platform (Niio) to help collectors store, manage, conserve and loan video, followed by computational work. More and more people can code, so we may get to the point where its easier to find people who can maintain digital pieces than look after master paintings, he says.

The art advisers: Lisa Schiff and Sebastien Montabonel

Lisa Schiff is a New York- and Los Angeles-based art adviser with a strong interest in digital art. She is sanguine about looking after the work, as long as artists provide good documentation. Its not like scraping a painting, whichalthough you have to repair itis forever tarnished. If there is a glitch with a digital work, working on the mechanics doesnt affect the value.

She says that there is a strong primary market for Cory Arcangel, Ian Cheng and others including Seth Price, Rachel Rose, Josh Kline, John Gerrard and Tabor Robak, but she only has two collectors building collections of this kind of work in depth. The issue, she says, is that there isnt really a secondary market. An Arcangel work based on an old Mario Bros [game] came up and it didnt do well. Its a seminal work and I wish I had bought it. But, she says, it took 150 years for there to be a market for photography: it might be hard for us to get our heads around it now, but it wont always be this way.

London-based art consultant Sebastien Montabonel, who recently organised a conference on media art and museums, Media in the Expanded Field, argues that the perceived challenges of digital work also present advantages. The number of collectors who want to buy something that doesnt necessarily fit easily into a home, that will probably break down in the way a painting doesnt break down, that very quickly looks dated in a way that a painting doesnt ever look dated, that are willing to take all these risks, will always be small, he says. But for those that do, the outlay can have a massive impact, he says. For far less money, you will meet all the artists, people will invite you to talk on panels, youll be offered places on museum boards. With risk, he suggests, comes impact.

The collectors: Anita Zabludowicz and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Sespite the challenges, a cadre of dedicated collectors has emerged: the Kramlichs in San Francisco; Julia Stoschek in Dsseldorf and Berlin; Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin; and the Borusan Collection in Istanbul.

The British collector Anita Zabludowicz (who calls Stoschek her digital sister) has mounted a number of digital shows, including this years Emotional Supply Chains at the Zabludowicz Collection in London. She began collecting the work of Pipilotti Rist in the 1990s and more recently she has focused on artists including Jon Rafman, Ccile B. Evans, Ed Atkins and Rachel Maclean. Museums have not, she believes, given enough attention to digital because not all curators have recognised the full potential of the virtual world as an art form. She is a supporter of Daata Editions, which commissions digital works and then sells them in larger editions than the art gallery norm, meaning prices start at as little as $100. We hope to change the mentality of the art lover, she says, encouraging people to use their smart electronic devices to seek out digital art in the same way they would seek out new music or TV.

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo remembers collecting video by artists including Doug Aitken and Steve McQueen in the 1990s; this month, she is showing works by Ed Atkins, shortly to be followed by Josh Kline. She recalls people questioning the artistic importance of photography and video, and argues that some of the same issues affect media art today. Now it is hard to imagine museums not showing photography and video like they show painting and sculpture, she says. For a new generation, digital art will be equally important in understanding what art is. It is the medium that best represents the ideas of this century, and it is the most direct way for newer visitors to understand art: it is much closer to their own experiences.