Before the age of World Wide Web and the consequential invention of social media, the word of prominent art critics meant everything. Today, however, an art critic no longer has the exclusive power to make or break an artist’s career. Gone are the days when artists were required to hobnob with critics and collectors, and make their way into shows before being able to sell a single piece. Internet’s democratised this gated art world by providing artists with new platforms and tools to create, distribute, promote and finance their art.
At the time of writing, the Instagram hashtag #instaart has a stunning 20,992,149 posts. Social Media sites like Instagram allow artists to not only create their own virtual gallery but publicize their work as well. As Olivia Fleming pointed out in “Social Media and the Art World: Buying and Selling Art on Instagram,” Instagram’s enables artists to act as “both dealer and curator” as fans become “critics and collectors, witnessing the creative process in real time. In recent years, museums and galleries have come to see the internet not simply as a useful marketing tool whose aim is solely to increase visitor figures or online sales. Its allowed them to reach out to younger and global audiences. Several art museums deliver educated content to capture new audiences with short video gallery tours led by a curator or a guest on camera on Facebook Live, or via Instagram real-time feeds, Twitter chats and more. In India art museums and art galleries are using social media to reach out to wider audiences. Pearey Lal Bhawan, a premiere cultural hub in Delhi, uses social media platforms such as Facebook & Twitter to reach out to art enthusiasts, and people who are unaware about Indian artists. Also, though their My Story initiative, the cultural institution enables budding artists to acquaint people with their art and the inspiration behind their artwork.
In 2011, the Google Art Project launched, putting works at many of the world’s biggest institutions online in super-high resolution. The project currently features works by more than 6,000 artists in more than 250 museums. Museums all over the world are digitizing their art collections using Google’s Art Camera. By building the Google Arts & Culture platform for the web and as an app, Google’s enabled museums to upload that content so that it can be shared widely. One way museums can do that is by using Google’s Art Camera, which produces images with more than one billion pixels. Virtual reality, too, promises to become part of the museum-going experience. The goal is to enhance the visitor’s experience while keeping the artwork front and center. In July, Google updated its Arts & Culture app, allowing people with Google Cardboard headsets to ‘tour’ 20 museums and historic sites around the world. For instance, the British Museum brought augmented reality, virtual reality, coding and more when it opened the Samsung Digital Discovery Center in 2009. They experimented with virtual-reality headsets to let visitors explore a Bronze Age home, or see what the Parthenon might have looked like thousands of years ago. A platform developed by Smartify, a London-based company founded in May, enables instant digital interaction with works of art. Upon scanning a work, the visitor gets its history, the artist, the creative process and other salient information.
Social media can be a difficult space for artists to present ideas or images that lie outside of the gauzy universe of sunsets and cappuccinos. Facebook’s community standards, for example, do not allow photographs of nudity — which pretty much puts the kibosh on presenting a lot of contemporary photography and performance art. Social Media has certainly made the art world more interactive, real-time, and immersive, and with the current pace of technology, this experience will only get more dynamic in the future.