Has the practice of posting and sharing imagery via social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram done more to help or hinder the state of visual arts in contemporary culture?

When was the last time that you ventured down to your local museum or art gallery for the latest exhibition? Being a part of the social media stratosphere allows us to forgo the organic sensation of experiencing art first hand, live and in person. The odds are that you have likely viewed fine art masterpieces, the latest performances, or the up and coming art stars from either you desk at work or the palm of you hand.

With the introduction of the camera phone, photography has become a part of everyday life, in a way never seen before. Nowadays, every sunset, meal, birthday party and new outfit (aka selfie) has become a banner of self expression. The creation of apps such as Instagram gives users the ability to edit and filter photos, previously only available through traditional darkroom methods and more recently, Photoshop. The popularity of this smart phone application allows users to turn their otherwise mundane images, into what could be considered art objects.

This begs the question, is it art?

With a staggering 100 million monthly active users, it’s clear Instagram has the attention of the public at large.  Everyone from seasoned artisans to emerging gallerists have harnessed the power that is the shared experience of a “Insta” universe.

The art world has entered a new level of self promotion and exposure.  Some might see this as the cheapening of the traditional right of passage from amateur to professional artist; side-stepping important developmental milestones such as: peer critique, group shows and mentorship.

Others might say that this new method of capturing, manipulating and sharing images is the perfect forum for those looking to express their inner artistic ambitions regardless of formal training or education.

Artists seeking to promote their works and exhibitions often use apps like Facebook and Instagram to relay information to their friends and followers.  Such contact and far reach has somewhat leveled the playing field for the established and amateur artists to gain exposure, allowing audiences all over the world to be able to see their works at any given time with just a key stroke.

Current Brooklyn based artist by way of Jacksonville, Bobby Davidson is quoted with saying “Aside from the odd esoteric post here and there, I primarily use these applications as tools for self promotion for my work and feel pretty good about saying that. As an artist, outlets like Facebook and Instagram are hugely beneficial. I work in a profession that is extremely competitive yet the size of a pin head, so I’ll take all the help I can get.” Davidson, whom recently launched a Kickstarter (A crowd funding website for raising startup capital for independent projects) initiative to garner funds for his upcoming “Number 34” project, has used social media to spread awareness about his project. Through his use of social media, he has been able to come within a few hundred dollars of his total goal just days after starting his campaign.

Artists can merely take a snapshot of their artwork (or their cat) and with the right hashtags (a metadata tag, that can become a searchable topic) can have their image buzzing through the interwebs, trending in their friends/fans news-feeds and accumulating “likes”. What more could an artist professional and/or otherwise ask for?  Recognition and exposure for their work is abundant. An enthusiastic fan base remains constantly ready to stroke an ego by reposting an image to another page in order to further their favorite artists reach. However, it isn’t necessarily that easy…posting and sharing can be just as daunting of a task as creating the works in the first place. Once an artist has amassed a following, there are a few things left to do, create more work and then…post, share, repeat. They have to keep the masses hungry, yet satisfied. Whether it’s by well-attended gallery exhibitions showing off their latest works, or via digital uploads.

In contrast, the ease at which social media spreads the word about the artists can also dwindle the fascination factor.

As fast as an image is posted and liked, it is forgotten for the next image that peaks a followers interest. Since the onset of popular absorption in the social media giants Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine, one would be hard pressed to recall a time when one couldn’t be constantly visually connected to their friends, families and world at large. Thus giving these users more than just art to draw their attention.

In summation, social media has much to offer the artist, their works and a community of followers. Yet with so much to offer, it makes for a slippery slope in which artists should know exactly what they have to gain and potentially lose from such applications. Treading lightly, maintaining to not become a flash in the pan of the social stratosphere.


Written by Aaron Levi Garvey