Drawing attention to your artistic creations used to be a rather Sisyphean task. It generally boiled down to a) create a lot of art, b) show it off at a gallery, and c) hope a significant number of individuals show up, one or two of whom might purchase a piece.
While dealers and galleries are still great tools for promoting and selling an artist’s work to their audiences and giving it legitimacy, social media has otherwise completely upended the way artists can promote their creations says Discollins, a Jamaican-born contemporary artist who’s actively building a following on Instagram.
Galleries are finding that artists with large social media followings who promote their exhibitions to their followers have far more successful events than those which either don’t do social media or don’t promote their exhibitions on it. The difference is so telling that some galleries are now taking an artist’s following into account when deciding whether to feature them or not.
For Discollins, the ability to directly reach out to his potential audience and interact with them simply isn’t possible to such a degree in any other way. It doesn’t hurt that sales made through social media channels (which typically get directed to online storefronts like Etsy and Artsy) net the artist the full profits from their work.
Galleries on the other hand can charge commissions of up to 50% on sales, a steep price to pay when the artist’s own social media following is becoming increasingly integral to the success of those shows.
Furthermore, social media followers can be directed to Kickstarter or similar crowdfunding sites to help fund an ambitious art project, which could allow the artist to fully devote themselves to it, as opposed to worrying about paying the bills or slowly gathering the resources for it.
Social Media Not Always Artist-Friendly
Instagram is absolutely tailor-made for artists, with a massive audience of some 1 billion monthly active users who are on the platform solely to tantalize their eyeballs with cool images.
Social media is by no means perfect though. Despite often being described as extremely liberal, social media giant Facebook, which also owns Instagram, is quite conservative in some respects with regard to the content it allows, in ways which clash with artistic ideals of free expression.
In particular, nudity is a virtual no-go zone on either platform, even in art form. Some artists and even museums have had their offending content removed or their accounts suspended for posting content that is deemed “suggestive”. Even images of iconic statues which depict nudity, such as the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, have run afoul of Facebook’s moderators.
Artists also lose a lot of control over their work once it’s posted online, as images of art can be circulated throughout the internet without proper credit being given to the artist. This can be overcome somewhat by adding a watermark to the image of your work, though some artists are torn on whether marring your piece for the sake of copyright concerns will do more harm than good.
Discollins also cautions artists to be wary of the line between promoting their art and promoting their own “brand”, which social media tends to encourage. He believes the focus should always be on the art, as becoming too caught up in cultivating or preserving a brand image could easily lead to the death of creative expression.