It was just last week in London that art world gadfly Kenny Schachter made the casual, off-hand comment that only one real service has emerged for selling art online: Instagram. It’s free to use and doesn’t benefit financially from the art dealing taking place there. But more important for the growing global art market, it is breaking down barriers, opening access across the gallery and secondary market. Today Vogue has a very good piece (make sure you click through to read it all) on all aspects of the trend:
“It’s very interesting to see works for upwards of one million dollars posted on Instagram for sale,” admitted the manager of New York’s Nyehaus gallery, Danielle Forest. “Especially when you see big collectors, like Alberto Mugrabi, the son of Israeli art collector Jose Mugrabi, commenting that he wants [to buy a painting] next to a little red-faced emoji.”
Others will tell you that Instagram is allowing new collectors to gain direct access to secondary-market dealers and flippers. But perhaps more important is the trend for artists to be able to manage their own careers and benefit entirely from their sales:
“I can post a painting and it will sell before the paint is dry,” explained artist Ashley Longshore, whose glossy crystal-covered canvases are regularly bought straight off her Instagram feed for upwards of $30,000. The 37-year-old is based in New Orleans but will often ship her artworks directly from her Uptown studio to London, Tokyo, and Switzerland, where she recently sold a painting to His Serene Highness Pierre d’Arenberg for an undisclosed amount. “My collectors will text and email me their credit card details, they mail checks; it is literally a frenzy to see who can whip out their AmEx first!” admits Longshore, whose nearly 2,000 Instagram followers, and subsequent clients, include the likes of Blake Lively, the former President of Time Inc. Digital, Fran Hauser, and “one of the wives” of the Rolling Stones. “Technology is the platform of my business: All I need is my iPad, my Instagram and a delivery truck to haul all of this gorgeousness to the new homes where they will hang.”
Now able to sell works themselves, artists are nudging the dealer out of the way while promising to demystify fine art and increase accessibility; challenging what has long been seen as an industry shrouded in pretense and exclusivity. “Like many technology disruptions, it levels the playing field,” says Kenneth Schlenker, the CEO and cofounder of Gertrude.co, a recently launched online platform where New Yorkers can sign up for modern-day art salons that bring collectors and the curious together to learn about, discuss and buy contemporary art in informal settings. “It used to be impossible for an artist to reach a massive audience directly,” he said, adding that “what is happening to art is comparable to what happened to music: The cards have been reshuffled.” Musicians don’t necessarily need record companies to distribute their work anymore—anyone can put an mp3 up on SoundCloud or video on YouTube and reach millions. Similarly, Schlenker says, Instagram gives artists the ability to control the way their story is told, and find people who want to hear it.