Instagram’s popularity has been growing steadily since it’s first debut back in 2010. With more than 500 million active users, it’s currently the second most popular social media network in the world, behind only Facebook (unless you count YouTube) and marketers are falling more in love with the platform as time goes by. It’s more visual than Twitter. It’s more social than Pinterest. And simply cooler than Facebook. So it’s very understandable that more and more artists are using the app to promote, discover and sell art.
For example, 28-year-old artist Laura Rokas says: “I’ve sold work through Instagram, I’ve gotten show requests from people who have found me on Instagram and galleries and curators have contacted me over Instagram.”
Many young or emerging artists see the photo and video sharing app as a democratizer, which helps those who might not have representation from the most prestigious galleries or degrees from the most exclusive art schools. This app is the most direct medium that gets their work in front of big audiences and other big platforms. “Without it, I don’t think it would have been possible to show my work in Norway,” said Rachelle Bussieres, 31, an artist who also works in the Bay Area and has received, through the app, offers of art residencies in Brooklyn, Paris and Iceland.
“That’s a very young group,” said Andrew Gully, a spokesman for Invaluable. Given that most people don’t start collecting art until later in life when they have the resources for it, Gully said if young people are already looking and buying art online, the trend will only grow. “As they age into a collecting demographic, think of the buying power that group will have,” he said.
At small galleries, such as San Francisco’s Guerrero Gallery, owner Andres Guerrero primarily uses Instagram to find new artists. The gallery’s staff most recently discovered Sacramento artist Maija Peeples-Bright after seeing her work on Instagram, which resulted in a showing in the gallery’s main exhibition earlier this year. Curators such as Rosa Tyhurst, who previously relied on gallery and museum mailing lists and art shows to discover new artists, have also added Instagram to their toolbox.
But for all the access and visibility Instagram has given artists, there are also downsides. There is a growing concern that an overreliance on Instagram could discourage people from attending art shows and shift the enjoyment of art, from an in-person experience to something that happens over a phone.The art world is also not immune to the baggage of social media, which can often bring out the worst of an artist’s insecurities.
“Sometimes I just want to get rid of it because it encourages you to be on your phone, and I don’t like that obsession,” Rokas said. At the same time, she says that if she deletes the app, she’ll miss out on opportunities.“As with any technology, there are good things and there are bad things,” she said. “And you either have to accept both or neither.”