As I scroll through Instagram on a cold winter’s evening, I find myself liking every post of art that I see.  Whether it’s a graphic print or a painting, I wouldn’t say my eyes rest on it for more than 20 seconds. One has to wonder if technology has affected the way we look and think about art.  Have we become more flippant? 

Instagram is a relatively new social media site and is hugely visual. Created in 2010 and now with over 1 billion monthly users, it’s a force to be reckoned with.  I follow numerous artists on Instagram who use the platform to sell and promote their art, which would not have been possible 15 years ago. Instagram, in a way, has bypassed the role of the dealer in allowing for artistic agency.  Before, people saw art in a gallery space, they spent time with the work of art that was carefully chosen by curators, it had spatial context, whereas it could be argued that Instagram has no such context and is completely unfiltered.  However, Instagram is accessible for millions of people and so perhaps artists are much more accessible now? 

It was my friend Amy’s birthday recently and a group of us put our money together to get her a print from a Cork artist called Alannah Calvert, @lalakalillo on Instagram.  The relationship between artist and buyer has changed: we were able to message her and find out more about her prints.  Becoming an artist is a daunting task, it is an extremely difficult industry to break and Instagram is allowing artists the platform they need to promote their work.  

Nevertheless, in 2020 there is an oversaturation of artists on Instagram. It has allowed for an ease of viewing art, we no longer have to enter a gallery or museum space: it can all be done on our phone, and in the comfort of our own home.  Scholars date the beginning of viewing art online to 1993 whereby the World Wide Web allowed for a large capacity of images to be viewed online. Nowadays the internet has permeated every area of our lives, so it feels much more natural to view art online. 

Perhaps it is the participatory aspect of social media that draws us in, we feel we can have a say on any given topic.  This can be said for Instagram in terms of liking, commenting and sharing things that interest us. When researching, I found an interesting exhibition that used public participation online.  ‘Click!’, held by The Brooklyn Museum in 2008, asked members of the public to rank art works in accordance of what they liked. The museum found interesting results worth noting. They found that the participants looked at an image for no longer than 22 seconds.  This seems relatively short, however I can admit that I look at art on Instagram for even less time. 

The Hiscox online art trade report 2019 found that the footfall in galleries is decreasing, however Instagram followers of galleries and museums are on the rise.  With one billion monthly users on Instagram, is this any surprise? The main reasoning for galleries having an Instagram account in the first place seems to be commercial and marketing.  The reach they can obtain on Instagram surpasses other modes of traditional advertising. 

With claims of the art world being elitist, Instagram is a more accessible avenue for artists to sell and promote their work. The popularity of accounts such as Banksy’s (standing at 7.1 million followers) attests to this.  We are an extremely visual generation that relies on technology, and this is reflected in the way we buy and look at art. Instagram acts as a sort of online community, whereby people follow things they have a personal interest in, and want to understand more about.  Buying art online can be seen as a good thing and a bad thing, however technology is growing and improving at such a rapid rate that we can expect it to enter all areas of our lives. 

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