Selling Artworks as the Case of Generative Art Product Marketing  


B. Soban, BSc.

 Vrtojba, Nova Gorica, Slovenia.

e-mail:, web:




Generative art products could be sold as information technology creations and could represent the top-level approach in the area of creativity. Artworks created by using generative art method are to be placed inside the new emerging market of digital art. Different researches prove that computer generated artworks being the result of the generative art approach need to be presented, promoted and sold in a different way than classical paintings. Considering digital art more as decorative equipment than real pieces of art, the specific marketing niche is targeted. Hotels, offices and other public places need to be equipped upon architect’s demand using low cost frames harmonized with the rest of the interior design. I know by my experience that great part of digital frames are sold as decorative equipment on order especially designed for an existing interior. All efforts of selling printed artworks are in vain if the print technology doesn’t guarantee, as much as possible, faithful screen colors and durability of prints. To create in a short time a high number of low cost prints on demand of an architect or of an interior designer are competitive advantages of computer-generated art.

1. Introduction

“Digital art” is the most popular term to define the art made on computer. Using the encyclopedia definition, digital art is the art created on a computer in digital form. The area of digital art is treated in two very different ways: computer generated and computer aided art. Computer aided art means that the computer is only a very powerful tool controlled by the artist, and work is pure human creation (using Photoshop to create images). Computer generated art means the creation of artworks by using autonomous processes with no direct human control. The role of the artist is to create the process (to develop a computer program), to start the process (to run a program) and to make the selection of generated works. Pure computer generated artworks are not influenced by any kind of artist’s (programmer, user) emotions. The program can be run at any time and space. Under the computer generated art we can find generative art, fractal art, algorithmic art, random art, software art, artificial art, mathematical art, cellular automaton art etc.

Generative art (GA) is a new computer method for developing ideas and creating new solutions in all fields of creativity. It doesn’t refer only to fine art but in the world takes on experiments in music, architecture, industrial design, web art, poetry, visual grammar, design approach, teaching theory, virtual environment, literature, artificial life etc [1]. This new approach copies evolution processes in nature including DNA code, the moment of birth, the growth process until the wanted grade of maturity. Actually there are genetic designed programmes which realize, as the nature does, an endless sequence of always different, unique and unpredictable solutions. The possibilities of generative art are still being explored by academic, creative and commercial sectors, but there seems to be a mutual understanding that this new form of creativity plays an important role in exploring new areas of art [2].

Computer generated fine art using generative method could be a challenge and a sort of temptation for an artist-programmer to transgress the boundary of experiments and to enter in the market with his own products. To make this step means to engage with new problems that have nothing to do with developing algorithms and programming. Entering in the world of marketing and potential buyers, quality of the product concerning print technology and print durability, prices and delivery conditions, selling channels, mediators etc represents a new area of activities previously not touched. Very few artists and programmers could become good sellers too. Selling agents, galleries and web site shops not represent the best way of being successful in the market of computer generated fine art using the generative approach. The possibility to resolve this situation is the main content of this paper based on my personal experiences. Generative art products, framed artworks or prints in this case, need to be presented in a different way than common manufactured goods. The way, in which generative artworks are acquired offers a very important point of departure for the promotional strategy. The key to success is in the author’s personal presentation of the basic concept to the potential buyer, to organize live presentation and to involve the buyer to become a part of the process. In other words, generative artworks could be sold together with the story of their coming to existence.

2. The market of digital art

The existence of the market for digital art is actually the most important question for anybody who has the intention to sell his own computer generated artworks. According to Rick Doble there is not much market for the computer art at the moment, but both the Whitney in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have had major computer art shows lately [3]. First of all the computer art has to get its position inside the art in general and to become respected as an oil canvas. The case is very similar to what the art photography had to undergo. The new age of computer technology and Internet will accelerate the process of recognition of the computer generated artworks as art. With the development of flat screen and by achieving lower prices for it, it will be possible to sell a lot of images or programs to be displayed on flat screen that would hang on the wall just like a painting. This could be an important advantage in a way to make digital art more friendly and acceptable. Today the only reality is to sell prints and framed artworks as an efficient decorative element for hotel rooms, offices, cruise ships, homes and other places.


The existence of digital fine art market is proved by statistic data of the retail value. By Patti Williams the retail value of North American Fine Art Print Market reached over $ 170 million in the year 1998. In the same article he predicted the value of $ 249 for the year 2003 [4]. His prediction was confirmed in the paper of Allison Jones with the amount of $ 290 realized in the year 2003. In the same source it is possible to see the growth of the digital art market until the year 2007 when it will reach about $ 600 millions of the retail value [5].


Unfortunately, there is no useful information on the Internet concerning generative artworks market presented separately as a part of digital fine art. Keeping in mind that the generative art as a creative method is not the new discovery any more and a lot of artists practice this approach, I suppose that analysts of the market don’t distinguish different concepts of digital art. All kinds of prints are simply treated as computer or digital art with no care for the basic approach, not even in the sense of computer aided and computer generated method. Considering the autonomous process as the basic role of generative art approach, in my opinion a great part of digital art market could be treated as generative. A short survey through digital art galleries in the Internet shows that fractal, random, mathematics, algorithmic, software, artificial, cellular are the most frequent methods used to produce art on computer.

3. The Research of Generative Art Market in Slovenia

In the year 2002 the first research of computer art market in Slovenia was carried out, focused on generative art products including artworks, graphic templates and industrial design. The results were published in the degree thesis of Martina Lukezic, student of “The University of Management” in Koper [6]. Two target group were involved in the research: individuals and companies dealing with design and graphic activities. The questionnaire for individuals was focused on artworks, for companies on graphic and industrial design and some questions about generative art approach were posed to both of them. Here are some interesting results:




I am interested in digital art

86 %

I have heard of computer generated artworks

78 %

Computer can create an image (artwork)

69 %

I have already seen a computer generated artwork (print)

13 %

I would pay more than $ 100 for a computer generated artwork

52 %





We have heard of the generative art method

57 %

We want more information about generative art

83 %

We would make use of the generative design in our products

94 %

We would sell generative design products

86 %

We would have generative artwork as company presents

53 %


The presented results prove a relatively high level of generative art method knowledge among the population and companies, nevertheless, lack of experiences is felt too. A great part of the interrogated subjects have heard of the generative art but very few of them had the possibility to come into contact with generative results. All the same more than half of them are prepared to pay more than $ 100 for a computer- generated image. A great part of companies want to have more information about the generative art and are interested in introducing the generative method in the area of product design or to use generated artworks as company presents. I would conclude that the knowledge of the generative method in Slovenia is more the consequence of promotional activities described in the next paragraph than the result of the active development and practical use of the generative approach.

3. Generative Art Promotion Activities in Slovenia

A good deal of generative art promotion activities in our country were organized by myself as one of the most important phases of my generative art project development [7] The first generative art prints were exposed in the year 1995 in the occasion of The First Computer Art Festival in Maribor. Till today I have had more than 60 personal and group exhibitions, being this an  important way to present a new art approach. All these exhibitions have encouraged art critics to valuate the new way of doing art. The essays on my art were published in printed mass media and they roused up different echoes: from real enthusiasm to pure depreciation. To evaluate generative art taking into consideration only prints as final results exposed in the gallery would be incomplete. It was indispensable to organize live presentation accompanied with author’s comments in order to deepen the knowledge and understanding of the concept. So I used to have a projection on exhibition opening to involve people to be inside the process. The real time image generation is the best way to make people understand the basic concept of generative art.


The power of live projection encouraged me to organize more than thirty events around the country in the last four years. Here I can list the most important ones: The Polytechnic of Nova Gorica, The Institute Jozef Stefan Ljubljana, The Modern Gallery Rijeka, The University of Ljubljana, different promotion and advertising agencies, conferences, computer art festivals, schools, companies dealing in graphics etc. In order to promote the connection between art and science I wrote some papers and essays that have been presented in IT conferences and published in proceedings. All those efforts in professional public resulted in a large interest of the mass media, especially of newspaper and revues, in receiving articles, having reportages and interviews on the generative art theme. There were published more than forty articles and from the year 2001 to the end of 2003. At the same time some TV and radio emissions on the local and national level were made. My web site has also been a efficent support of all kinds of promotion activities. In the web site it is possible to see, among the other things, a complete list of exhibitions, projections, papers and articles.

4. Coloured Print Technology and Quality of Product

There are two fundamental problems related to the coloured prints: coloured harmony between the screen and the printed image and the durability of prints. Both of them depend deeply on the used technology. At the beginning I have to say that nowadays the technology is not good enough to realize such brilliant colours on the print as they can be seen on the screen. This is the biggest handicap for all digital artists because the decision of saving and printing an image is taken on the basis of screen colours. The first technology that satisfied the major part of Fine Art printing requirements was Iris Giclee method of creating high quality limited edition prints [8]. But no one actually knows  how long an ink-jet or giclee print will last on a wall. Manufacturers make estimated claims for the archival quality of their papers and inks based upon accelerated tests.


I started with ink-jet printers using dye-based ink. A dye can generally be described as a coloured substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is usually used as an aqueous solution and may require a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye in the fibre. Using dye ink to produce useful prints is not reasonable because the ink dissolves in water and it is not sunlight resistant. Naturally it is possible to get very brilliant and screen similar colours using dye ink but prints can be good only for temporary and not professional use [9]. More resistant are pigment-based inks but they have less brilliant colours and tighter colour gamut than dye inks. There is another inconvenience: pigment inks are applied prevalently on high prices plotters.


My first sold prints were printed on the plotter using pigment inks but they were a little different from the previously presented Epson sample prints. I established that Epson prints are very close to “what you see (on the screen) is what you get (on the paper)”. Unfortunately I operated with three versions of the same image with different colour gamut: screen version, dye ink based print as sample and pigment ink based print as final product. The solution could be to operate only with final prints and to  present to the buyer neither a screen version nor an Epson print sample but having galleries on the web and using sample method to make proposal to the buyer was impossible. The only solution was in finding a better print technology. Looking around the market I’ve found a digital photographic printer that according to my previous experiences has resolved nearly all the printing problems.


The Durst Epsilon Plus is a digital photographic printer, equipped with special LED exposure technology and continuous paper transport which makes it possible to expose pictures or series of pictures in one piece up to 85 m in length and the maximum roll width of 76.5 cm [10]. It produces low cost and high durable prints. The commercial price for prints is about $ 50 for a square meter and they have a permanency that is typical for photography. For the moment this is the best solution I’ve found in my residence area. Colour gamut of prints is very close to Epson samples and the customers are satisfied of the products they buy.

5. The System of Selling Computer Generated Artworks

From my personal experience computer generated artworks for the moment could not be treated as fine art like the works of Salvator Dali, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and many others. We can find the same situation in Slovenia where fine art galleries and private collectionists don’t show great interest in digital art in general. This is the reason for different approach regarding the selling of computer-generated art. We can find much more interest for computer art in the area of decorative equipment as the element of interior design. Here a digital artwork has some advantages in comparison with classical art.


Speaking about decorative equipment on order it is easy to define the potential buyers. The most important market niches are hotels, offices, casinos, restaurants, cruise ships, schools and other public places. The right way to start the selling activity is to get in touch with architects, interior designers, investors and many others dealing with interior equipment. From my experience it is not an easy task to equip a new hotel with hundreds of rooms with frames in a way the architect has conceived especially if a special style of images has been planed to make a “fil rouge”. By using generative approach it is now possible to produce a great number of prints harmonized with interior in a short time.


To offer a decorative equipment by the order of an architect or of an interior designer could be interesting and would represent useful solution for him. Very often nobody cares at all about the frames until the last moment before the opening of a new building. It is very important to make the right step at the right moment versus people who are responsible for the finalisation of the new investment. Having previous information about the interior design it is possible to prepare right solution in time. It means to prepare sample artworks congruent with the other elements of the interior design.


In order to create the real interest it is necessary to clear some facts that are important for the customer to come to a decision relative to the proposed frames:

-         All prints (frames) are unique item guarantee

-         Artworks could be pure abstract or stylised images from nature

-         The permanency of prints could be compared with photography

-         Large colour gamut of prints

-         Optional dimension of prints

-         Accomplishment under glass or lamination with transparent UV resistant film

-         Type of image and colours harmonized with the interior design (made on order)

-         Previously confirmed samples

-         Realisation of large quantities in a short time

-         Low price with quantity discount

The facts listed above could be very competitive advantages of generative artworks having in mind quite impossible task to find a great number of classic artworks for the same price and under same conditions.


In addition the whole selling process is presented from the first information to the delivery of frames. After having discovered the right and the responsible person I get in touch with. I send afterwards a general offer with some information about my concept and characteristics of my prints with all the possibilities. After getting more information relative to the interior design or architect’s desires I prepare some samples for discussion. The meeting with the architect or the designer is the right occasion to explain the “story of generative art” and I have to do this personally. Depending on the acceptability I often propose to sit down together and to discus and to create images on line and to make the selection. Arriving to this point there is no more question regarding the realisation of the business. The presentation of the real time process generating images is the most effective way to convince the customer. Being sure of the architect’s or the customer’s demands I use some days to prepare a certain number of images to make later the final selection. Then I organise everything concerning printing, making frames and the final delivery.


There is another market niche where to sell small dimension generative artworks. I think about the company’s presents for Christmas and New Year occasion. The market is full of trashy proposals for company presents and a customised framed artwork could be a pleasant variegation in the market.

6. Conclusion

As for the conclusion I want to list some important facts I’ve discovered in selling generative artworks in the Slovenian market. Listed statements are taken from the degree thesis of M. Lukezic on one side and based on my personal experiences on the other side:

-         There is good knowledge level of digital art but few experiences and practical application

-         The existence of generative art method is known from different mass media, exhibitions, projections

-         Computer generated artwork can’t be compared with a classic painting

-         The function of computer prints is more or less decorative

-         It exists a limited market for computer generated artworks but it requires a special treatment

-         Typical market niches are hotels, offices, restaurants, casinos, schools, public places

-         The most efficient way is to offer prints as decorative equipment on order

-         Selling prints through galleries, agents and mediators doesn’t give good results

-         The best results are reached through the author’s personal contact with the customer

-         The generative art approach must be carefully explained using efficient demo programs

-         Generative artworks need to be presented as a real time process

-         The Customer could be involved into creative process depending on his acceptability

-         It needs to explain all competitive advantages of generative artworks

-         Generative artworks as a new product need to be promoted continuously

Three years of my personal selling experiences could be a good starting point to enter in the market in a more organised way. A generative artwork as a new product of informational technology, a combination of art and science, of human and artificial creativity, could be tomorrow an appreciated decorative element in any kind of ambient or may be a real piece of art.


[1] Celestino Soddu, Generative art,
[2] Bogdan Soban, Application of the generative approach to creating artworks,
[3] Rick Doble, Is there a Market for Digital Art,
[4] Patti Williams, Painting the Market: Digital Fine Art,
[5] Allison Jones, Large Format Digital Fine Art Market Study (abstract),
[6] Martina Lukezic, Trženje računalniških grafik, (Marketing of Computer Generated Art), Koper, 2002
[7] Bogdan Soban, Generative Art Curriculum,
[8] Mamata B. Herland,  The Impact of Giclee,
[9] Dye and Pigment Inks,
[10] Durst Epsilon Plus – product information,