Art in the Digital Age

Art and Social Media is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Mostly because it’s my main form of advertising and in this day and age to not have a social media is the same as not existing.

It’s a relatively new development in the greater scheme of arts marketing but is one that has, for me, become and important part of my art journey. It’s also interesting when viewed in a historical context as the emergence of the artist as an entity onto themselves is an interesting one.

During the Renaissance for example artists were highly respected but their work was mostly funded by patrons. (This is seeing a resurgence with sites such as Patreon and Twitch. You may not be able to afford a painting but you can ‘fund’ and artist by donating whatever amount you see fair). There wasn’t necessarily an open market for art like there is nowadays. These patrons were either incredibly wealthy families (think royals or mavericks like the Medicis in Florence) or the church. Do you think those guys wanted to just paint portraits and religious scenes? Some probably did, but for most it was a way to get paid; the historic version of being commissioned to paint someone’s beloved dog as a pilot wearing a striped shirt and smoking a joint. It’s not your thing but mama (or papa if we’re keeping in the Renaissance timeline, heaven forbid a woman paint-Ra Ra to those ladies who did) needs to eat and art supplies are expensive.

As time moves on power, and ultimately money, begins to shift. With the rise of industry and in particular the the Industrial Revolution meant that money wasn't necessarily just the playground of the aristocracy or religious groups any more. Industry (and a deep violation of human rights by most of the factories) meant that people were now able to easily rise up through the social ladder (unless they and their families were being taken advantage of) and also begin to invest in art.

This is also where you begin to see a shift in subject matter. And style. It’s around this time, plus minus 1880, when the Impressionists shook things up. The Industrial Revolution was a game changer for the art scene as, not only was photography a thing now, paint was able to be put in tubes. This seems like somethings really inconsequential but until that point artists has been stuck in their studios, now they could leave and paint a far greater variety of things.

Impressionists embraced this entirely. I’ll write a post at some point about why Impressionism is such an important movement but basically they were free to paint what they wanted where they wanted now. They shattered the glass ceiling by starting underground exhibitions to basically give the middle finger to the stuffy older styles of art and those with a monopoly on who and what was shown and sold and brought art to a whole new market of people (basically our version of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest to name a few.

Move forward into the 20th century and you begin to have the start of artists as marketable entities unto themselves. Duchamp was the bad boy of the early 1900s, Dali shook up what we thought art could be (and had a pet anteater, what a guy), Warhol was more popular than his art and became a deeply ironic figure considering his art was all about commenting on the ridiculousness of mass production and celebrity.

We’ve now reached a very different age. Even a few years ago I had no idea how to get my art seen by people. I wasn’t (and still am not) confident with selling myself to galleries and I thought without a gallery I couldn't sell work. Social media has changed that. In this blog post alone I’ve linked you to six different platforms you can view me and me art on. It’s also made me more confident in what I’m making and is actually allowing me not only to engage with people who are interested or like my work but also be in charge of how I am portrayed.

The interesting thing about social media is that you yourself become part of the product. In a gallery setting the art is all sexy and you are this mysterious creator who’s a bit removed. In simplistic terms to a buyer you’re a signature and a bio. On social media you’re a person, and I really like that. I feel like it gives people more of an insight into you and your art and ultimately lets you form connections. It also lets me post an obscene amount of photos of my cats, but let's be honest they’re cute and cats make people happy so why not.

There is the downside, There are loads of pay for feature accounts (why do you have to pay for everything in the art world??? Want to enter a competition? That’ll be 25 dollars per work you submit. Want a repost? Nope, 5 bucks please then we’ll talk) and then those which will remain nameless but basically try to sell not great art pieces but have a model posing in front of it looking so awkward it actually hurts.

I read an article the other day about how art that has a pretty, skinny, white girl standing in front of it will perform much better online than if you were to just post a picture of the piece. There's something incredibly sad about that. But try it out. Have a scroll through Instagram and spot the enchanted white girl gallery syndrome.

Case and point. So natural.

Case and point. So natural.

But I digress. Social media and online spaces are the new white cube and we are the neo-impressionists forging our own little art scene in this digital post driven world. It’s a liberation. This is not to say galleries don’t have their place, I love a gallery and am working hard to get my work into them and sold by them but social media channels allow me to be the boss of my own business which is actually quite reassuring. I hold the power of how my image is portrayed in the world and, would like to think, I do that fairly honestly. There will always be those who use power to take advantage but on the whole this digital age has created an artistic liberation movement that is nothing short of amazing.