Are games art? I don't know. I know they're artful, and I know there are components to them that, taken individually, certainly qualify; Jami Sieber's "Maenam" didn't stop being art - exceptionally beautiful art at that - just because it wound up on the Braid soundtrack. Is it possible that individual works of art are somehow lessened when brought together in collaboration within the context of a videogame? Maybe. But it's inarguable that many of those pieces that come together in games are, on their own, works of art, and that those who create them are genuinely talented artists.
It's those artists that the Netherlands-based "next-gen art dealer" Cook & Becker want to bring to the attention of the world. "Cook & Becker specializes in art and artists who are defining and shaping our time and culture, with a special focus on artists working in the international film, games, urban lifestyle and design industries," the company's website says. "We exhibit and sell exclusive works from known illustrators, concept artists, designers, comic artists, urban/street artists and photographers from around the world."
Which isn't to say that the company sells screenshots, or even concept images taken from particular games. The idea is to give artists best known for their work in videogames a chance to show off their talents in less conventional ways, by giving them a more conventional platform.
"Cook & Becker focuses on artists who are also working in the games industry, instead of only art from games, and game or design studio projects," Cook & Becker co-founder and gallery director Maarten Brands recently told me. The firm also works with entire studios on projects involving a specific game properties.
"For example, we wanted to do something with Killzone. The development and visual development of that IP is done by a team at Guerrilla Games and SCEE so I needed them to want to get involved. In this case the artist is actually the studio," Brands explained. "What happens with them is not that different from working with individual artists. We get together with the art team and select or create a couple of interesting works of art that are key to a certain IP or from a studio and we create a limited edition series of that work and we make a deal that these works will not be sold outside of this edition."