Best Practices

Collecting computer-based art may seem like a difficult proposition, as it is among the most ephemeral of art forms. Artists often use hardware and software in unconventional ways, and media files and operating systems are subject to rapid obsolescence. Despite these challenges, careful preparation can ease the way for collecting this vital new art. Because collecting computer art is a relatively recent phenomenon?and because digital technologies and artists' practices are fluid and evolving?this section is less a standard ?best practices? document than a series of recommendations. For example, one should always keep the lines of communication with the artist or artist's representative open. This can take the form of an artist interview, which can be invaluable for exhibition and conservation of the work. Record-keeping is another important part of assembling a collection; this may include getting a copy of the installation instructions, a signed certificate from the artist that authenticates the work, and even video documentation of users interacting with the work.

As you read through this section, please refer to the recommendations in the Preservation of Computer-Based Art section of this Guide, as preservation, cataloging and conservation of computer-based art should be addressed at the moment of acquisition. A number of issues discussed in Single-channel Video and Media Installation will also be relevant.

Communication with the Artist or Artist's Representative

It is of utmost importance to engage in a conversation with the artist or artist's representative to ensure that you understand all the elements of the work and how those elements create meaning. Much work has been done in the conservation community regarding how to properly interview artists to obtain maximum information. INCCA's (International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art) "Guide to Good Practice for Artist Interviews" and the Variable Media Network's "Variable Media Questionnaire" are excellent resources.


Review any rights granted or restrictions imposed as part of your purchase contract that may impact the exhibition and preservation of the work.