Art on Instagram: A Guide for Collectors

@rackowe art on instagram
Nathaniel Rackowe, Sculpture, 2020

When things seem crazy and uncertain, sometimes it helps to just disconnect mentally and take some time to sleuth the Internet, namely, look for art on Instagram…at least that’s what we like to do!

Since Instagram is associated with beautiful imagery, it’s only natural that it has emerged as the de-facto platform for visual artists to showcase and sell their work online. This trend has only accelerated during this pandemic when galleries are shut and artists are unable to show their work in a physical space. So we encourage you to start exploring the art world on Instagram, and we have put together this helpful primer to get you started.

Why Instagram for Art?

We would never say that seeing art on a screen is the same as seeing art in person. In fact, Walter Benjamin a famous art critic who pondered the role of art in “the age of mechanical production” held that art existing in a particular time and space has an “aura” that no reproduction, no matter how perfect, can ever match. And certainly, there is a certain enraptured feeling, a little electric and a little magnetic, that comes from being in the presence of a great work of art. For example, we feel it’s impossible to “get” what is so great about Jackson Pollock without seeing a Pollock firsthand.

With the pandemic, the first-hand experience was not possible and many brick and mortar galleries have scrambled to stay afloat. Instagram and Facebook are natural choices for promotion, but some galleries have even turned to Instagram-exclusive shows. Right now, if you are interested in supporting the arts in your hometown, we would recommend following your favorite local galleries on Instagram!

Ryann Slauson, Souvenir, 2020
Art on Instagram
Ryann Slauson, Souvenir, 2020

Here in the Tampa Bay area, Leslie Curran’s ARTicles Gallery is featuring Michel Delgado, a Senegalese-American artist, and Tempus Projects is wrapping up a group exhibition called Where Are You When the Sun Goes Down.

Even as the world reopens, it’s not always possible or convenient to see work first hand. And certainly, it’s not possible for any single person to see ALL the art! But Instagram is far more than just a convenient alternative for browsing art from the comfort of your sofa, or as a distraction in downtime. It has unique merits for finding, learning about, and even purchasing art.

Instagram for Emerging Talent

Instagram is a treasure trove of emerging artists from around the world. Before Instagram, access to artists early in the careers was largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time. These days any artist can share work at a very early stage. But mid-career artists also find it advantageous to keep in touch with collectors via Instagram. This dynamic gives collectors access to artists throughout their careers to a degree that was quite rare before the advent of Instagram.

HYUNJU KIM, Two Ends, 2019 @hkimgrim Art on Instagram
Hyunju Kim, Two Ends, 2019

For example, when artists depended primarily on a gallery for representation, collectors tended to interact with gallery staff or art advisors rather than getting to know the artist personally. Of course, artists have traditionally greeted the public at openings and even entertained collectors during studio visits.

But with Instagram, artists are posting not only images of their work and studio, but often they are also sharing video clips of their process. This kind of immersive content is not only fun to look at, but if you’re considering buying a piece, it helps put the whole thing into context and personalizes the experience. 

Tom Burbidge, Changes, 2020
Tom Burbidge, Changes, 2020

Manchester-based artist, Tom Burbidge, who we featured in January, uses Instagram to its fullest potential. Tom not only posts images of his work, but he also creates some really great videos showing his painting process and also talking about a specific series he might be working on. This creates a connection with the viewer and potential buyer, and hearing and seeing Tom, legitimizes that he’s not just some shadowy figure on the internet. And although he doesn’t sell directly from Instagram, his website is an impressive, well-structured storefront. Not only does he sell original paintings, but he also sells limited edition prints, starting at about $73 USD. 

Rebecca George. Every Moment. 2020
Rebecca George. Every Moment. 2020

Rebecca George, a mid-career artist with over 100,000 followers on Instagram, is promoting a new level of transparency between artists and collectors by incorporating Insta-like content into a custom web application. This web app will feature “behind-the-scenes” of an artist’s studio work, how they think about their work, and why they are making it.

Searching for Art on Instagram

Searching for that perfect piece of art on Instagram may seem a daunting task but here are a few tips to help you navigate and narrow down: the first and obvious choice is to read our blog! At Lonely Ocean, our goal is to introduce you to artists we like and that we hope you’ll enjoy too. When you read about an artist we’ve profiled, we always link to their virtual storefront if they have one, or to their social media account, usually Instagram.

Michel Delgado, Something To Feed On, 2019 Art on Instagram
Michel Delgado, Something To Feed On, 2019

We recommend searching with hashtags; they are invaluable for finding art on Instagram. If you’re already following artists on Insta, take a look at what hashtags they’re using when they post their work. Popular art hashtags include: #artofinstagram #artistofinstagram #artistofinstagram #artistoninstagram #art #igartist #artdaily. Also, you could try terms like #beautiful #collection #collectors #curate #gallery #instaart #studio_visit and the like.

You can also search for specific mediums #oiloncanvas, for example, or styles #abstractexpressionism. Maybe you are looking for art from a specific place or type of artist: think #brooklynartist, #chicagoartist, #marfa, #womenartists, or #cubanartist, for example.

If your collection has a specific focus, art prints, for example, you could try #monotype #contemporaryprintmaking #monoprinting #printmakingart #drypoint #aquatint #intaglioprint and so on.

Then you can browse a selection from artists around the world curated (via hashtag) especially for you. Instagram lets you concentrate on the image itself, without being distracted by the environment, or the people therein. If you like a particular image, you can follow the artist, find out more from their website or their gallery’s website, read reviews and comments, and even leave a compliment. Be patient…once you discover an artist you really like, follow them for a protracted period of time. Observe the kind of content they post and their consistency.

Once you are seriously interested in an artwork, you can often purchase work through the artist’s website or Etsy shop. If not, reach out and make an inquiry. Artists may have a .pdf on hand that has a list of available works and prices. If not, don’t be shy about asking about price. If a particular piece is out of reach, it is worth inquiring to see what options an artist is offering that fit your budget. Many artists have smaller paintings, works on paper, and even prints that are quite affordable.

Supporting the Arts on Instagram

If you’re fortunate enough and have the ability to purchase art, discovering an artist you like and being able to purchase a piece directly can be even more gratifying, knowing that you’re supporting the art community, which currently finds so many artists needing the help. Artists are always a resourceful bunch, and during this time, they’ve really put their creativity to work, finding new ways to sell and at the same time, support one another.

Art on Instagram Matthew Burrows #artistsupportpledge
Matthew Burrows, Bonescape, 2020

I realized the work needed to be cheap enough to make selling it an act of generosity, but also I needed to make that infectious….generosity creates generosity.

Matthew Burrows

One example we find truly noteworthy is the Artist Support Pledge. Started by UK-based artist, Matthew Burrows via his Instagram page, the concept is simple, artists (from anywhere around the world) who commit to the pledge will post images of a work that’s for sale, for no more than £200 ($230 USD), and each time their sales reach £1,000 ($1,155 USD) they promise to buy another artist’s work for £200 or around $230 USD. Essentially, this means you’re able to buy an original piece (typically works on paper) directly from the artist and that purchase becomes part of the reciprocal support system established by Burrows. 

Aydin Hamami, Be a Hero, Smoke Pall Malls!, 2020
Aydin Hamami, Be a Hero, Smoke Pall Malls!, 2020

Kurt recently purchased an original piece by L.A.-based artist, Aydin Hamami, who is participating in the ASP, and whom we featured in April. “Be A Hero, Smoke Pall Malls!” is an original mixed media on paper. Aydin continues to feature these specially priced and brilliant works on his Instagram page: @aydinhamami. All you have to do is follow him (of course) and message him directly. 

Henry Ward, Shed Painting Series, 2020
Henry Ward, Shed Painting Series, 2020

Another artist we just recently featured and who is likewise participating in the #artistsupportpledge, is London-based, Henry Ward. Henry is offering some absolutely beautiful work on paper that you can purchase directly from him via his Instagram page: @henzward. Kurt could be eyeing one of Henry’s pieces as well! 

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