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Contemporary digital culture has no doubt influenced the art world. The presence of social media has altered the way in which we view art. Works that used to only be seen in person—or occasionally in print—are now easily accessible through social media. Ultimately, this movement is expanding the reach of the art community.
There are a variety of different ways individuals can utilize social media to enhance their experience in the art world. Brilliant contemporary artist Adrianne Rubenstein (@another_ruby) curates her feed with the intention of inspiring her own work. She considers how the accounts she follows are “going to make me paint and think, and more importantly how it’s going to make me feel. I need to maximize the chances of feeling inspired and minimize anything that could potentially bum me out or reflect what I see as negative sides of the art world.” Prominent collector Carole Server (@csart430) ingeniously uses her social media as a digital diary to keep a record of all the art she’s seen. When individuals post images of artwork to Instagram, it helps promote galleries, their programs, and artists. This exposes other potential collectors to art they might have never seen. Gallerist Marianne Boesky (@marianneboeskygallery) bought a painting by an artist she’d never heard of simply because, “I spotted the image on Instagram and loved it. So I contacted that gallery and went to see the work in person and bought it!”
Social media also makes the market more accessible to everyone else. With Instagram, users can view work from anywhere the world. Galleries use social media to promote upcoming exhibitions to a global audience. Likewise, accounts that list New York City’s most “Instagrammable” spots (such as @fomofeed) often feature exhibitions. Therefore, it isn’t a shock that most of the people waiting on the line for Yayoi Kusama’s “Festival of Life” (I’m guilty of posting this myself) or the “Rain Room” at MOMA, tend to be non-insiders.
Additionally, there’s a rise in apps that make it easier to keep the ever-changing addresses of your favorite galleries or who’s showing what straight. See Saw is one such an app. It keeps track of new shows and allows users to follow their favorite galleries. The popularity of these apps gives the everyday person the ability to be immersed in the art world. This presence of a global audience has vastly expanded the influence of artists. From Ai Weiwei’s (@aiww) activism to Marilyn Minter’s (@marilynminter) political pop-up shops, a large social media following has made them household names.
This digitalization comes with its fair share of issues. There is a profound difference between viewing artwork on a cellphone and in real life. Often, photographs do not do justice to the artwork. Texture, scale, and color become altered with the addition of a screen. The pixilation of images and distortion of three dimensional sculptures sometimes warp the artwork. Gallerist Isaac Lyles (@lylesandking) points out that “it’s important to resist reducing experience—in life and art—to quick images posted on a screen.”
Although the classic forms of communication in the art world still play an important role in the art community, the digital age has changed the art world. For better? For worse? Either way, it’s here to stay.