Instagram and the Art World

How can we keep art relevant in the digital age?

Social media has become an integral part of the international art community through the display and exposure of art across the digital world. With over 9.5 million posts under the Instagram hashtag #instaartist, the concept of being #instafamous is simultaneously a challenge and expectation of the next generation of artists. 

The ability for art to be shared, experienced and explored online breaks down many barriers in the traditional art world and provides opportunities for audiences to be more involved. By focusing on the use of visual media, Instagram has become its own form of international art community while also challenging and influencing the existing art world.

By ensuring the art world is still relevant - and making it popular again with the digital generation - the audience can choose when, how and what they engage with to personalise their experience.

How can social media get people involved in the art world?

Traditionally, galleries are responsible for presenting art to their audiences but Instagram gives users the chance to get closer to the artists. By creating an online personality, artists can demonstrate their processes, style and inspire audiences to explore the art world with them.

This is particularly pertinent with the work in progress shots, or #wip photos, that many artists post. By presenting this personal and intimate side of art, the audience is able to capture the creativity and establish a connection with the work and/or artist. 

Check out Isobel Funk's watercolour video. You can view her work @isobelfunk and contact her at isobelfunk@gmail.com.  Her process video enables users to view the reality behind the artwork and reinforce the human element of the creative process, rather than the perfect and idealised completed work.  By ensuring that users can relate to the content, and more importantly the artist producing it, users and artists can establish a connection with audiences.

 

Video by Isobel Funk. Used with permission.

Viewing art on social media can also provide endless inspiration for artists and users. Take the hashtag #inktober as an example. Created by artist Jake Parker in 2009 as a personal challenge, the public experiment has grown to into a worldwide phenomenon. During the month of October, users are encouraged to post a pen or ink drawing every day for the entire month. Users can explore different themes and styles, experience new work and artists, and are encouraged to experience creativity on a daily basis. There is no need for professional status, formal training or even any skill. By encouraging participation artists and the online gallery visitors can interact and explore the processes of art, or just appreciate the challenge and presentation. Users are in control their level of engagement.

Artists can also use Instagram to present their personalities, businesses and promote their style. Have a look at this inktober image by Melbourne artist and graphic designer Carla Scotto. Scotto uses Instagram to promote her design business and to communicate messages about environmentalism and feminism. She uses Instagram to present a particular aesthetic and style within her work. By creating a consistent style and theme for her artwork, Scotto is able to demonstrate her personality and messages that are important to her. This way, her audience can be aware of the type of content to expect from Scotto's feed, and her followers can be built up of an audience who are interested in the issues, images and content she posts.

 

Image by Carla Scotto. Used with permission.

But what does this mean for galleries and museums? 

With increasing reliance on digital platforms for communication and entertainment, Instagram is changing how artists exhibit their work and how users relate to art. The explore function of Instagram acts as the online gallery space with the screen becoming the gallery walls. Users can expand images and explore individual artists based on their interest level and style preferences to curate their own exhibition. The authority of gallery and museum curators is challenged as the users (or would-be gallery visitors) take control of their artistic experience.

Galleries and museums need to find ways to integrate technology - especially social media - into their exhibitions or be left behind because mobile phones aren't likely to go anywhere anytime soon. 

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) demonstrates an authoritative institution carefully acknowledging the challenges of the digital age in the art world. You can view their Instagram here. Comment below on how you think the NGV keeps up with the latest social media trends online. You can read about their digitisation project here.

Creating a space where artists can communicate and interact directly with their audience challenges the exclusivity of the art world and shifts the discussion of art from the critics who act as the 'authority', to the creators and users. While this doesn't mean that galleries and museums will cease to exist, it ensures that the audiences and the art must always be at the heart of all creatives endeavours and remain relevant with the increasing use of technology.