Instagram, when launched, had the charm of a fairy garden suspended in a world of possibilities. It was more streamlined than Facebook, where the clutter of content had begun to come in and take center stage. Instagram showed you everything in a set format. Picture, witty caption, relatable hashtags. Post. Repeat.
Instagram allowed you to showcase your talents to an audience that earlier would have been inaccessible to you. But what is really happening? What is the good, the bad, the ugly? This new world that artists are forced to navigate for their benefit and what does it mean to be successful in this modern world philosophy.
For this piece, we are going to pull references from the internet and see what actual artists are going through.
The chaotic wheel spins, and always, the first thing we justify is all the good that comes from anything.
Artists have now more than ever the chance to actually connect with an audience that truly appreciates their art. Gone are the times when you had to give 50 % of your commission to gallery owners when you sold a piece of art.
Social media has turned the art industry into a democracy. Artists who lack representation or degrees from prestigious art schools now can grow audiences without them.
Art is also no longer an endeavor that is undertaken by old white men in tuxedos. Inaccessibility is a thing of the past. Social media has made every person with a smartphone, a social media account, and purchasing power into a potential customer.
In a report by Invaluable, an art marketplace, it was reported that almost 56% of consumers between the ages of 18-24 proclaimed that they would buy art online. In the same survey, 45% also said that they find art online.
Museums have also managed to cash into this growing economy of the hashtag generation. A case in point would be the Ice Cream Museum, a social media sensation. Started as a pop-up experience in New York, this interactive experience soon had visits from celebrities like Beyonce and Katy Perry. Now they are raising 40 million in investor funding. Understand the drastic shift in experience people are craving.
In 2015, the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian decided to open Wonder, a six-week art installation that turned the entire museum into an interactive art experience. Nine contemporary artists came together to take over different galleries to create specific installations. This attracted more people in six weeks than what had come in a year.
The Instagram generation, by extension, is one of self- mythologization. Your self-worth is suddenly entangled with the number of followers that you manage to amass.
Every artist is cleanly categorized into a niche. A specific style and repetition are required to grow and sustain a following. Repetition is killing the art aspect of artists who have decided to stay off or leave the platform. It, according to artists, has taken a form that is no less than addiction, which is detailed in an essay by Brad Phillips, a Canadian artist. He was an already established artist long before he joined the platform. Even though stats state the people would buy via DMs, a thing to note here would be that the majority of his sales still happen in galleries where he is showcased.
Instagram for artists is cutting the middleman. But is it genuinely generating sales? Artist Hallie Bates is known to put up polls for artwork that should be printed and sold. The audience is allowed to choose. An overwhelming number participate in these polls, but how many convert into actually buying is rather small.
The introduction of Patreon has been a saving grace here. But the catch is significant advertising for artists still exists on Instagram.
Stealing and Censorship. The dark underbelly of this new world of art is made of these issues. Work put up on Instagram is equivalent to losing control of it. Work is duplicated and reproduced without credit, let alone compensation. This jeopardizes an artist’s ability to claim their own work later for commercial purposes, as people might assume you’re re-purposing work. There is no way to control this theft of property and no law protecting you either.
The second issue is that of censorship. Artists have been notoriously provocative about their artwork. Officially Instagram is okay with whatever you post as long as it is not sexual in nature. Here to exist terms and conditions as what is considered to be sexual in nature. Breasts are not okay, but male pubic hair is. You’re allowed to post your ass but only from a distance. Who is responsible for deciding the distance?
The deep-rooted issues of aversion of the female form in its natural state are what is under heavy criticism. How Instagram handles, it is something that remains to be seen.
I personally don’t believe that Instagram is good or bad. It is all about what you are trying to achieve and the methodology you take to reach there. Is authenticity dying? With the number of artists swearing off the platform, you would think so. But then like most choices this too, only you can define. Everyone is equal on this platform.