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The impact of Instagram on the art world

Suzanne Gyorgy

By Suzanne Gyorgy

Global Head, Art Advisory & Finance

February 18, 2018Posted InWealth Advisory

The art world – and especially art buying – is steeped in tradition. Many of its norms and expectations have existed for decades, and sometimes even centuries. At the same time, however, art is constantly evolving, creating and adopting new trends. An example of this is how the art world has embraced Instagram as a medium to share visual information and increasingly as a vehicle for buying and selling art.

In its seven years of existence, Instagram has had a significant effect on the way people view and share images. On average, around 300 million people use the social media tool every day, with more than 40 billion photos shared on the platform to date. But while Instagram may be most readily associated with pictures of pets and selfies over meals in exotic locations, it has also become the leading social media forum for discovering and following museum exhibition, gallery shows and artists. With the ease of sharing art information more and more works of art are being bought and sold online, with all annual on-line sales more than doubling to $3.25bn between 2013 and 2015, according to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report.

Before Instagram, art buyers would discover new artists or works of interest via gallery and museum exhibitions, art world publications, word of mouth and self-motivated internet searches to find out about artists or artworks. As an artist, auction house, gallery or private seller, one was reliant on someone proactively searching for a particular artist or work of art and once contacted, reaching out to the seller to respond.

Instagram has transformed this process, now a seller can post images which immediately reach out to their intended audiences.  Many savvy sellers gather more ‘followers’ through the strategic use of hashtags such as #contemporary art, #abstractpainting.  As a result, today most major art auction houses, galleries and museums are active on Instagram.

The huge attraction for art buyers is that now they can be anywhere in the world, at any time, and still discover interesting exhibitions and works of art. All you need is a smartphone. This makes art globally accessible. Additionally, with so many auctions and gallery shows on view over the world a dedicated collector would have to be constantly travelling to see everything. Today you can view works in an art auction in Jakarta, an emerging artist in Australia and a gallery in New York whilst getting on with your busy working day in London.

Instagram has changed the pace of the already fast-moving art world. Increasingly it is not uncommon for art sellers to post images of artwork on Instagram, and then in some cases, an hour or so later receive messages of interest from potential buyers, and finalise a deal soon after.

The social media tool also gives opportunities to artists who cannot show at galleries due to geographical location, or lack of networking contacts. Although Instagram will never replace the traditional means of displaying art, it has increased the number of artists, exhibitions and artworks we are exposed to and expanded our art viewing reach globally. There is no doubt that Instagram is helping to transform the art market and aiding in the increased globality of the market.