Double Tap: How Social Media is Shaping Today's Art Scene

Centuries ago, people showed their admiration for and love of art by forking over millions of dollars for private collections. Now, all it takes is a quick double tap and you can move on to the next work. Social media has increased the accessibility of artists’ work in an unfathomably drastic way—networking can be a snap, if you market yourself correctly. From Tumblr to Twitter, the platforms for self-promotion are nearly endless. Art accounts on Instagram have gained literally hundreds of thousands of followers practically overnight, catapulting creators into the spotlight with just a few clicks of the metaphorical refresh button. Websites like BÄ“hance are gaining more notoriety, and better yet, sales platforms like Etsy and Society6 have brought freelance artists and small business owners to the forefront of the industry. In a lot of ways, it’s never been a better time to be an artist.

But while social media has helped showcase a wider pool of talent, it has also has increased the pressure of the field. Think about it: how many posts do you scroll through every time you’re on Instagram (or really any social media, for that matter)? How many of them can you recall an hour later? What about 24 hours? Probably not very many. What we Like on Instagram isn’t actually leaving much of an impact on us. Ironically, a lot of content we see on social media mimics its platform by being fleeting—I daresay inconsequential—in nature. Yet, in most ways, the art being shared isn’t taking any less time to produce. In a way, that means the value of artists’ time is diminishing.

It’s no secret that technology has innovated the art world—3D-printed sculptures spring to mind—but where’s the line where it becomes detrimental? In an effort to keep up with the speed of our world of instant gratification, the art world is pushing more boundaries than ever before. “Wow factor” has become a priority—a both good and bad thing. On the one hand, increasingly high stakes of what maintains a viewer’s attention breeds new levels of creativity—but on the other hand, perhaps it removes some of the personal authenticity of art. Did Rodin sit in his studio and think about all the heart-eye emojis that would one day denote his significance as a sculptor? Nope. Did Matisse concern himself with the number of likes on his prolific paintings? Um, no. They created for themselves, not solely for viewership. By focusing on creating “the next big thing” on Instagram or some other media, artists are removing their voice from the equation.

Fast forward to our millennial “Age of Social Media,” and there’s a whole different story. A stunning amount of art is created for display—but not in a museum. This, in that of itself, raises another compelling question—do our smartphones, complete with internet access at our fingertips and images of any kind available in mere seconds, fulfill the same purposes as galleries and museums of the moment? That’s a conversation for another day, perhaps. Again, I return to the question: where is the line that defines what is or isn’t detrimental to our current art world?

Optimistic millennials might say this is just the new world, and everything else must adapt to fit it: a sort of unnatural selection that might even shake up Darwin’s worldview. But others might attribute a worse diagnosis to our globalized, digitized society: an all-you- can-eat buffet of images and inspiration that has the art world on the precipice of a massive sensory overload.

text and visual: jackie andrews
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