Science & Technology



Likes, comments and sometimes sales — how Instagram is shaping the art world

Tracey Lien, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

"Nothing can ever replace meeting artists face-to-face and seeing them in the studio," Tyhurst said. "But it allows me to see things I wouldn't have seen before."

LACMA sees its Instagram page as something of a virtual gallery that allows followers to feel like they're seeing an exhibition, even if they're not in Los Angeles.

Tyhurst likes the idea of accessibility. But for all the access and visibility Instagram has given artists, there are also downsides. She worries that an overreliance on Instagram could discourage people from attending art shows and shift the enjoyment of art from an in-person experience to something that happens over a phone.

The art world is also not immune to the baggage of social media, which can often bring out the worst of an artist's insecurities.

Bussieres says Instagram can be distracting, especially when artists get swept in comparing how many "likes" or comments their work gets compared to others.

"We all have to be able to separate what is good versus what is popular," she said. "Is it popular because the artist is young and stylish and posts cute pictures? Is it a trend? Does it mean anything that this artist has more followers than I do?"

In the photography world, amateurs on Instagram have been criticized for homogenizing outdoor photography by copying each other and perpetuating what's popular. This seems to be less of a problem in the art world. But the emphasis on "likes" and followers has made some artists feel that Instagram is a game that they feel they can't sit out. Rokas and Bussieres describe feeling pressure to constantly be engaged on Instagram and to post photos of their work to maintain a following and keep up with other artists.

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"Sometimes I just want to get rid of it because it encourages you to be on your phone, and I don't like that obsession," Rokas said. At the same time, she says that if she deletes the app, she'll miss out on opportunities.

"As with any technology, there are good things and there are bad things," she said. "And you either have to accept both or neither."

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