Is This The Insta-Art Movement Then?


Whats the deal with Insta-Dealing, Artsy Influencers, and the 2019 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report? 

As events concerning the art market continue to make mainstream headlines, more people are becoming curious about the workings within the art world and realize the growth potential that is embedded within its vast and global network.  This is not a new revelation central to our time and this moment.  There has always been huge potential in the art world because it revolves around artists— the most creative, inspiring, evolving, curious and entrepreneurial of us all.  However, with the convenience of social media, the barrier to entry is slowing subsiding; the art world is more accessible than it has ever been before.  

The Age of Instagram

In our age of Instagram, art adoration has met the art market on a global scale— providing an immediate channel to be informed, to be part of a constantly changing experience, and to buy and sell.   With the top end market so explosive and the acceptance of collectors as investors, Instagram has become a way to stay on top of market trends, auction lots and dealer inventories, as well as peek at a new piece by posting artists or get a look inside the studio. And how do these things end up meeting in the middle?  As Simon de Pury states in The Price of Everything, You only protect things that are valuable.  If something has no financial value, then people don’t care.” As this digital juxtaposition of art communing and art commerce grows more popular by the day, we wanted to explore the topic of social media and pose the question: ‘Why is Instagram so favored by the art world?”.  

Online, the art world is continually expanding and is seeking an active engagement through both art market participants and everyday individuals.  In the past two decades with the rise of globalization and emerging economies alongside the growth spurt of art fairs and biennials, collectors and artists are now positioned all around the world.  The professionals are no longer suited exclusively in their capital art destinations. Social media is an immediate global connector and Instagram is the most visual and utilised platform out there. It provides the perfect portal to sit in smartphone comfort and gaze in on many facets within this lucrative industry.  

The Impact…

Probably the biggest impact that Instagram has had on society-at-large are the roles of celebrities, influencers and micro-influencers and how they have utilized this platform to set trends and stay current.  Where the art world is concerned, this has double the impact.  Reputation and credibility have been extremely important for centuries in the art networks and Instagram has provided a powerful means on which to provide both.  It’s in this space where the proclaimed ‘art selfie’ has emerged.  To get to the bottom of this, I have chatted with a real art world Insta-influencer. 

When I asked @abstractduke, collector and old friend, what he thinks about the ‘art selfie’ he replied, “Look, whatever it takes to get people excited about art, museums, and galleries. I’ve found that when I post photos of art with people in them, they tend to have much higher engagement on Instagram. If art selfies and infinity rooms draw people into the art, then so be it!”  I don’t see how anyone can argue with an interest in awareness.  It’s not easy to grab someone’s attention with all the noise out there, but @abstractduke has captured the attention of 50,600 followers.  At this point, it’s beyond the art selfie— it’s about taste and he’s making it. 

I asked @abstractduke about how this type of public profile enriches his connection to institutions, and he was graciously forthcoming in his response to engaging the art world powers-that-be through this platform: 

“Case in point, I was in Knoxville, TN for just one day and of course their art museum was closed. I wrote a quick message to the communications director, offering some free publicity and was immediately invited to tour the current show with the head curator. It was surreal and thrilling to be in an empty museum, learning about the show from their expert curator.  More broadly, I really enjoy following the major museums on Instagram. It allows them to showcase work that isn’t currently on display and share insights into their collections.” 

This type of access and publicity is not the only aspect of this ‘changing of the guard’—I asked @abstractduke if he had ever purchased artworks using Instagram.  His response: Absolutely.

@art_informer is also purchasing work through Instagram, or in this case we could say ‘sourcing’ work.  @art_informer is the alias for Lougher Contemporary, a contemporary art advisory and dealer of editions and multiples based in Bristol with a 60K following and accounts on LinkedIn, Artsy and Artnet.  Managing Director Huw Lougher says, “Our strong social media presence is a contributing factor to converting enquiries to sales, or prospective clients to buyers, and is also helping us to grow a brand and increase our market share in the art market. I like to think that it has helped build a certain level of trust and respect with new clients.” 

How We Connect…

Instagram is a great tool for connecting and developing strong relationships with collectors, but it’s best to be warned that things are not always as they seem.  A generous piece of advice from Huw: 

“There are lots of cheats out there that can help you appear to have a significant following quickly, and I've seen a number of other accounts use these. However it depends what you want to achieve from the platform - for vanity reasons, it's natural to want a large following but if you've bought them or you've used certain techniques to achieve it, the benefits you are likely to see are going to be limited (I know some accounts with 1,000 followers who have far more engagement and sales through Instagram than other accounts who have 25,000+ followers).”


I’m convinced of this as well. With all the action and rapid growth on the Insta-art-world, there are bound to be some areas of concern. 

Released recently, the 2019 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report strongly claims, “Instagram continues its reign as the leading social media platform for the art world with a 65% popular vote among their survey respondents.” That’s an incredible success, and given this next statistic, I wouldn’t be surprised if the other 35% decided to change their minds. 75% of art buyers use Instagram to find art to purchase. That’s a much larger figure than I think anyone would have imagined for this year but looking at the larger picture provided by the report, it all makes sense.  We can see on the left how the art world currently uses Instagram.

These numbers didn’t just magically appear, they’ve been in the incubator for a few years now.  Through combining the emotions of words and literature with the visual unexpectedness of painting and artworks, Brett Gorvy leads his acquired mass of 122,000 followers, viewers and readers to a place of understanding, clarity and, most certainly, collection.  Back in 2016, Bloomberg Magazine reported that the prominent dealer posted an image of a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat and the next day had a $24 million sale in hand.  And that was when @brettygorvy had only 54,000 followers.  Making a big news buzz, the story was well reported in major press such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Art Market Monitor, Galerie Magazine, The Independent, etc.  But it’s never just as simple as having a compelling Instagram feed; for a look inside Gorvy’s pivotal moments and plans we suggest starting with Andrew Goldstein’s Artnet Interview of Brett Gorvy from 2017. 

As data analysts and art market players, we are always putting numbers into perspective. Art Basel has gained an impressive Instagram following by art world standards at 1.8 million.  However, if we google search the person the most followers in the world, we find the popular Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo with 160 million followers.  That’s 88.9 times more followers than Art Basel.  It’s like comparing the growth of the Global Mobile Application Economy by 2021 to the global art market. (While exceptionally grand and far reaching, the global art market gained 6% to total $67.4 billion last year-- according to Dr. Clare McAndrew’s 2019 Art Basel Art Market Report.  Whereas App Annie’s Global App Economy Forecast Report has projected the growth of the global mobile application economy to reach 6.3 trillion by 2021— also reported in TechCrunch.)

As the art world moves into global, digital and social phase 2.0, there are many opportunities for the art market to take advantage of the technologies and tools inherent in business practice today.  Through cultivating and building our own custom datasets, Art World Insights will be on the verge of providing valuation analytics and personalised artist reports for all corners of the primary and secondary art markets.  As a new startup with something to prove, we’re excited to put real world experience and specialized education to proper use by staying in tune with trends, deltas, numbers, figures, and more, within the art world— in reality and in the social sphere today.  

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bethany woolfall