Art: A Backdrop for your Instagram?

explores whether the photo-based social media app has a positive effect on the art scene

A generation glued to their smartphones, under the reign of social media sites, such as Instagram, it is not surprising. that art has been affected too. Has art been devalued and reduced to a background to match your latest outfit? To those not familiar with Instagram, it is an app that serves as a visual self-branding representation, occasionally referred to as twitter in the form of photos. Figures from The Statistics Portal state that there were one billion active users on Instagram at the start of 2018, demonstrating its prominence and significance in this digital age. Since art is very much visual, it is linked to creating the perfect Instagram, where people seek out aesthetically pleasing art to match the ongoing theme of their profiles. Many celebrities and social media influencers are continuing the trend of featuring art on their feed. Posting about art creates a well-cultured facade. Although in some cases there is genuine interest in the work, how many posts provide the artist and the name of the artwork, or relevant information about the piece? Is the art in the photo being appreciated, especially when it is not the main subject of the photo, or, rather diminished to compliment the aesthetic of the profile?

However, let us consider the positive impact of the social media site. Instagram can lead to excellent discoveries of art in our surrounding areas; for example, the Yayoi Kusama exhibition (2016) at the Victoria Miro in London. Based in a small gallery in the North of London, I admittedly would not have visited it without seeing it on my explore page.

The exhibition created a magical fantasy with three box mirror rooms (All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, Chandelier of Grief and Where the Lights in My Heart Go) which acted as a kaleidoscope of mirrors, a wonderful photographic opportunity. Given this, I was far from surprised to see it flooding my feed. Furthermore, the aesthetic quality found in the main themes of repetition and pattern draw the eye in.

As mentioned in E. H. Gombrich’s The Sense of Order : A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art, “confidence in the stability of the world (without which) we could not survive.” Exploring the relationship between the eyes and brain, we are engaged in patterns, seeking mistakes or disruptions. Patterns are very intriguing due to the expectations and assumptions we have of what will appear next. Our vision is programmed into a frame of order and it is in our natural instinct to want continuity. The disruption to the pattern in these mirrors are the viewers themselves who complete the artwork, with the mirror and the illusion of infinity made by the mirrors, and also a live image that becomes part of the artwork. We can see ourselves in the frame and we are fully immersed in a different world, when in reality it is a confined and small space.

Each session was timed for around three minutes, and arguably, by having shared this moment on Instagram alongside the highlights and special moments, it showed the importance of the artwork, and the impact it brought to the viewer – one worth sharing.

But perhaps art is much more to do with personal perception, and even using art as a background for photos to match outfits can be considered as admiring the art and complimenting the artist. This itself is creating new art, as it is a new interpretation of the piece of work.

As a History of Art undergraduate, I study multiple interpretations, and Instagram opens up a boarder platform that removes the element of the exclusivity of art. There are never too many opinions, and posting about art removes the intimidating stigma of visiting art galleries. With the common attitude and response of “I know nothing about art”, Instagram does not discriminate and the act of sharing just a photograph of an artwork is sufficient to show your interest in a certain artistic area. As a visual platform, we are not required to write a thesis, or provide complicated theories and thoughts. It is purely a caption that accurately describes the artwork or even the memory of seeing it. Instagram itself can be seen as a curated collection of photos, and can act as our own art gallery. Many artists are using Instagram as a platform to share their art in order to gain recognition and followers. It attracts many photographers, especially those who use digital manipulation to create a surreal image or landscape.

The photographer, Kat Irlin (@kat_in_nyc) based in New York, has a page which has gained 1.4 million followers. She photographs models and initially uses double exposure to merge the bokeh skyline of New York City to her portraits. By gaining such a large following, she was able to work with various publications including Elle and Vanity Fair. In addition to this, she has worked in campaigns for internationally, well-established designers and brands such as Louis Vuitton and Dior.

The photo-app is able to serve as an electronic agent for emerging artists, revolutionising our input as an audience because the decision power has shifted directly to the consumers, with companies using what people already like.

Instagram has revolutionised the way in which we view art, accessibility and directly connecting artists to their audience. Art can never only be a backdrop for Instagram, even when it is not used as the main subject of the photo. The art has been chosen for a reason and reinterpreted into a new meaning. Art has not been devalued, rather Instagram has created a safe space and environment for exploring interests in art, which would otherwise be quite intimidating.

Furthermore, the key idea and purpose behind social media is to create a platform to share art, and presents itself as a golden opportunity for emerging artists to gain exposure. The question of the meaning of art is still highly debated and it is a definition that is constantly expanding, so we can see how a carefully curated feed can be considered as art.

Credit: Fiona Wong

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