How social media is influencing and owning art

Social Media Apps

If you’re creating and sharing art on social media then you’ll have no doubt experienced the phenomenon of influence. Social media platforms views and reactions often greatly influence how we perceive our own creations as artists. In the past artists would create artwork, and they might show a few close friends, family or visitors. If they were lucky they might show it at a group exhibition, or accumulate enough works together to make a solo exhibition. In the 21st century everything has changed, because the audience is right there on our phones, laptops and tablets. Now, when we create art it can be finished, processed and exhibited in a matter of hours. Not only is it instantly viewable, but instantaneous reactions arrive within seconds.

If the likes start flooding in, we know it’s a winner. Wow this post is doing well! Oh look I got some spam comments, and a couple of genuine ones as well. On the other hand, if the likes and comments aren’t flowing, it can result in a fairly negative reaction. We start to question if this piece was any good. The masses don’t like it, so it mustn’t have value. Maybe in some cases it’s an accurate reflection, but it could take an academic paper to really work it out.

Instagram Feed

The problems with art and social media

One problem with posting artwork on social media is that the viewer gets to view the digital copy of the work for free. To really gain insight into the viewer experience, we’d need to know how long they spent looking at the piece. Did they scroll past, and hit the like button without more than a two second glance? When visiting an art gallery we have an entirely different experience. In many cases we pay an entrance fee, and spend quite a long time viewing and absorbing the art. We read the description, look at it closely, step back and chat about it. Then after exiting, visit the gift shop, purchase souvenirs, and maybe even stop for coffee and cake. If it’s a smaller or local gallery, the experience might be more subdued, but we will still invest time and effort in the experience.

Accessibility of art on social media

Social media is making art more accessible, but it’s also capturing it, and owning it. The digital image of your artwork is now the representation that people will see of your work. The platforms own the images you post, and they also decide who sees it. They are providing the audience, and their algorithms decide who will get to see what you post. Furthermore they offer paid advertising, and will favour users who bring in revenue to their platforms.

The viewer has invested almost no time, effort or money. In many ways this system advantages those who already have well established social connections. These connections give you a base to work with, and a number of likes and engagements are almost a certainty. From this base you can build a larger following. The social platforms will promote your post based on the fact that it’s already well liked, and thus help gain more followers and likes. In some ways this is unfair advantage, because it’s not necessarily based on the quality of the work itself.

Benefits of promoting art on social media

There’s also many benefits to promoting your art on social media, and without it you’re most likely missing out on potential customers. As artists we should probably look at new ways to use social media platforms instead of simply giving it all to the viewer for free. At Watercolourart we have developed an idea, which is quite simple and possibly unoriginal. Instead of exhibiting art on social media, artists should have virtual exhibitions, and promote them on social media. Regular gallery exhibitions are not always possible in the post covid world, with all the lockdowns and restrictions that are in place. In the next few weeks we’re going to trial a virtual exhibition of a group of new artworks.

Virtual ExhibitionThe traditional ecommerce platform really doesn’t adapt very well to the viewing and sale of artwork. The catalog pages show small product thumbnails, and which aim more towards the average store based product. The virtual exhibition aims to show larger images the artworks, accompanied by description excerpts. There’s certain to be other sites out there that have already embraced this concept, but after careful consideration we think it’s an innovation worth pursuing. If it’s well received we may also start inviting new members to exhibit using this concept. If you’re not already subscribed don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to keep updated with the latest news, products and posts.


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