Has Instagram Changed the Art World Forever?

And how does the technology we use influence the way we see art?

Yayoi Kusama Art
The ubiquity of Instagram may have altered the way many people interact with large-scale works of art — like this Yayoi Kusama installation.
Pablo Trincado/Creative Commons

It’s been 10 years since the launch of Instagram — which means 10 years for its presence to have made an impact on aesthetics in a host of ways. At The Guardian, Celina Ribeiro zeroes in on one specific way in which the app’s influence has been felt: namely, in the growing number of ” large-scale installations, exhibitions and museums which are conducive to sharing on the social media platform.”

Ribeiro cites a stylistically diverse range of work, from Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms to the Museum of Ice Cream. And she notes that writing about this phenomenon can be tricky:

Criticism of these made-for-Insta art experiences can easily trip into elitism. And the truth is that art has for centuries been about vanity, personal shows of wealth and cultural access.

For Ribeiro, the problem comes in when setting up a great photo of a 3-dimensional space causes viewers to miss the full scope of the installation. “[T]he irony is that these immersive exhibitions in practice become anything but immersive,” she writes. “They instantly become two-dimensional.”

Ribeiro’s observations line up neatly with an article written by Drew Zeiba at Vulture in late 2018. Zeiba’s focus was on the phenomenon of artists themselves leaving Instagram, but some of the larger points made echo Ribeiro’s argument. Zeiba cites the case of artist Jake Borndal, who “found that seeing and sharing on Instagram began playing with his conception of the world around him.”

Before the era of Instagram, there were still numerous large-scale installations to be found, from Christo and Jean-Claude’s The Gates in New York City’s Central Park to the work of the arts organization Creative Time, who have mounted impressive art installations in unconventional spaces for decades. How might these ephemeral experiences been changed had Instagram been around for them? It’s a disquieting thought, and one to ponder the next time you’re surrounding yourself with breathtaking art.

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