Almost 18 years ago, fresh out of a five-year career as a technology business journalist and working my first art gallery job, there was a lot of conversation in my new profession on how the Internet was changing how collectors purchased art. Some wondered if the experience of visiting our brick-and-mortar art galleries would be replaced by e-commerce web sites. This isn’t quite how things turned out. Brick and mortar galleries and the Internet have formed a symbiotic relationship.
With gallery rents rising and “art fair fatigue” having long since set in among both gallerists and collectors, more and more art dealers are turning to Internet offerings as the most cost-effective way to share available inventory to as many collectors around the world as possible. Art commerce web-based businesses such as Artnet, Artsy, Paddle8 and 1stdibs have not replaced art galleries; they are simply new outlets for galleries to reach collectors. That goes for artists as well. Whether or not you have gallery representation, artists are more empowered than ever by the Internet to share what they do in their studios with the rest of the world.
Sometimes, I will recommend to an artist that they start using the Instagram app to promote their work and some (particularly older artists) will just shrug and say, “Why? I already have a website.” While having a user-friendly website for displaying artwork images in high-resolution format is still king when it comes to helping serious long-distance art collectors evaluate your work for purchase, the big challenge is getting collectors to your website in the first place. Enter Instagram which, according to the company’s website, currently has over 800 million registered users. Unlike the other huge self-promotion app, Twitter, where pithy, clever quips are more likely to gain you followers, Instagram is an almost purely visual form of communication, which makes it ideal for creators and sellers of visual art. Like Twitter though, your posts are searchable by others through hashtags (the “#” in front of a descriptive word or phrase such #abstractart or #wallsculpture) that you attach to your posts.