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07 Feb 2019

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Likes: Art in the Age of Instagram

As of 2018 Instagram hosts over 1 billion users worldwide, and is projected to grow even more over the course of this year. Alongside the platform’s exponential rise, the art world has drastically altered their social and cultural norms, arguably in favor of tailoring to social media’s new standards. From the rise of pop-up immersive experiences to shifting rules in museums and galleries, the way we experience art is undergoing a radical transformation. As with any new medium, Instagram offers both new points of accessibility as well as new limitations. What critics are still grappling to understand is whether or not these recent benefits outweigh emerging constraints.

Image courtesy of https://dreamerybycasper.com

As pieces that are tailored for Instagram continue to develop, many artists feel empowered to explore new conceptual work, particularly from a technological standpoint. Projection mapping for example, is expected to become a $6.4 billion dollar industry by 2026 and has been tagged in over 150 thousand posts. Experiential, virtual reality, and immersive spaces are becoming progressively popular as well, giving observers the ability to now participate in the art presented to them. In fact, brands are slowly moving away from traditional marketing tactics, and instead opting to collaborate with artists to create immersive events (such as Casper’s dreamery). Now, 3D animation seems to find a perfect medium through Instagram (with some artists boasting millions of followers) and their posts find a home at the top of user’s IG explore page.

While these trends provide exciting opportunities, they may also present themselves as obstacles to artists whose works are not compatible with instagrams norms. Additionally, artists who do have a prominent following have found the channel to be time-consuming and even detrimental to their creativity. In a recent Vulture article discussing the breakdown of artists and their platforms, creator Brad Phillips noted that people have paid more attention to his account rather than his art. Beyond creative constraints for artists, observers are also experiencing artwork differently. Thoughtful experiences are now being dismissed, replaced with the desire to get a “perfect” photo (sometimes at the cost of destroying hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of artwork).

(After attempting to take a selfie at a pop-up gallery in Los Angeles, a visitor destroyed over $200,000 worth of crown sculptures)

It’s no secret that Instagram has become foundational for much of today’s artwork. Many artists are now empowered to share work that happens to be highly compatible with this new platform. Further, it is a resource for many users who are not able to go to galleries or museums, making art more accessible than ever before. However, critics agree that engagement on this medium is not necessarily the best metric to measure an artists’ success. Algorithms and subtle censorship can prevent artists who do not comply with Instagram’s norms to be excluded from artistic discourse. While the platform presents itself as a vehicle for artists and observers alike, we should be wary of making it the most prominent artistic platform.