Whitehot Magazine

Has Social Media Changed the Way We Buy Art?



According to 2018 survey from Hiscox, in the past year, “almost three – quarter of online art buyers (74%) bought more than one artwork online in the last 12 months”. In fact, the online art trade report revealed that “23% of millennials said they had never bought an art work in a physical space (e.g. gallery, auction or art fair) prior to buying art online” with Instagram rapidly growing as the favorite social media platform. This not only illustrates some of the opportunities that social media offers emerging artists. Online buying trends like this could revolutionize the way art institutions, galleries, and auction houses have worked for years.

Image obtained via Instagram, @andcrespi

Social media challenges the traditional methodology of the business of art by expanding an artist’s agency. An artist is no longer forced to agree with the default arrangements enforced by galleries. If they believe commission fees are too high or that they gallery is simple not representing them correctly, artists are free to explore the other options between artists and the business.    

The high-demand from the online art markets allows artists with a strong online presence or brand, to establish connections with potential buyers and collectors from different backgrounds across the world. Until recently, artists from underrepresented backgrounds or those who lacked the right connections, were deprived from a tool that could help them penetrate the art world. It is no secret that art institutions, buyers, collectors, and galleries have been criticized for their bureaucracy and lack of equal representation, so for artists to have a tool that could help them gain exposure without falling short next to this type of elitism, has been revolutionary.

Thanks to social media platforms as Instagram and Facebook, an artist is able to connect directly with a global audience. They can share studio tours, video interviews, as well as showcase their creative processes and creation of pieces. All while interacting with their audience and obtaining immediate feedback. Additionally, Instagram allows the artist to control their prices, avoid galleries’ high commission fees, as well as some of the drastic changes in prices that have been recorded by auction houses and galleries. 

A screenshot from Eduardo Navarro’s Instagram page, @eduardonavarroq, where the artist updates his audience about what is happening inside and outside his studio.

Even though gallery representation is still seem as validating, social media has allowed artists worldwide to obtain this level of respect and esteem through different ways that do not involve splitting profits with dealers. According to painter Riad Miah in an interview with CBS, several galleries have responded to this by making sure that their lighting works well with Instagram as well as scouting for artists via Instagram. Nats Getty, an artist and descendant of J. Paul Getty, speaks more about her experience with social media as an artist on Out’s May issue by saying: 

“The access that people now have to whatever they really want to understand or get into,’ she continues, ‘has played a major part in shedding light on a community of artists and artworks that have always been around. But now people are really truly getting to see it and enjoy."

On the other hand, Facebook, is able to help artists by providing a platform for crowdsourcing where they can gain funds while increasing their audience's interest. This tool helps the artist facilitate the promotion of gallery exhibitions, group shows, or art fairs that collectors might be interested in. “Collecting art is an addiction and Instagram is the dealer and pusher that enables it”, according to Karen Robinovitz, Co-Founder of Digital Brand Architects and board member of The Bronx Museum.  

Screenshot of the type of engagement Frieze Art Fair New York is attracting with using #friezeweek across their social media

Another popular social media tool is Twitter. Even though this platform is not primarily a visual one, it is one of the most effective ways for an emerging artist to increases their level of engagement with their audience through replies. Art fairs, for example, are using hashtags as and mentions (@) to keep visitors up to date, increase traffic, and attract the followers of certain galleries and artists. Similarly, artists are also using Twitter not only to stay connected with their existing network, but as a tool for expanding that existing audience and self-promote. Twitter allows artists to network and connect with journalists, publications, and creative personalities from all around the globe that would have otherwise been unreachable. 

Even though all these social media applications are very popular, an artist might also benefit from more specific tools. Artwork Archive offers a space for artists everywhere to be recognized by potential buyers. This tool helps artists connect with potential clients, track sales, produce invoices, etc. Essentially, it provides any artist with the kind of service that a gallery could offer. Another tool similar to this would be Behance, a creative online platform owned by Adobe Systems. Behance was ideated to showcase online portfolios and serves over 10 million of creators. For artists interested in web design and the creation of digital content, this platform is one the easiest ways for them to be discovered by potential clients. Additionally, it increase an artist's; presence and brand. Behance hypes its artists and connects different creative professionals across the world not only though their platform, but through other integrated services such as Adobe Portfolio.

If one thing is clear, is that social media has managed to convert its audience from a passive commodity into an active one. The existence of viral user generated content in the artistic community allows for everyone to have a voice and for that voice to be heard just as loudly as any as long as there is an audience’s presence, there is value and opportunity. WM


Alexandra Oduber

Alexandra Oduber is an undergraduate student at Fordham University interested in contemporary art and its intersection with culture, technology, and digital trends. Alexandra splits her time between New York City and Panama City.

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