Social Media and the Art Market

The NY Times just published an interesting article on the use of social media site Instagram and the importance it is taking on in the art market. Many artists, galleries and auction houses post images and short captions onto Instagram to promote works and sales. The article does note that they do not know how much this translates to actual increases in sales, but there is no denying the additional exposure is a positive effect.

Fellow appraiser Soodie Beasly, AAA, ASA AM gave a very good presentation on using some of these social media platforms within the appraising profession at the ISA conference in Kansas City in 2014.  Instagram and Pinterest were discussed. I think Soodie was ahead of the curve on the positive potential social networks can have beyond typically networking like LinkedIn groups and Facebook pages.  I have to start looking a evaluating how best to take advantage of these platforms like Instagram as well, as so should all appraisers.  Times and methods quickly change, and we as apprasiers have to change and adapt as well.

My daughter works for an association managing many social media accounts and platforms, I guess it is time to sit down and have her teach me about using and incorporating some of these applications into my appraisal practice before I fall too far behind.

The NY Times reports
Anyone in the art market who was not already paying attention to the social media platform Instagram had to sit up and take notice in April after the actor Pierce Brosnan visited the showroom of Phillips auction house in London. Mr. Brosnan snapped a selfie in front of a work he admired: the “Lockheed Lounge,” a space-age aluminum chaise longue by the industrial designer Marc Newson. Then he added the words “let the bidding commence,” and posted it to the 164,000 followers of his Instagram feed.

And commence it did. Later that week, Phillips broke the world auction record for a design object, selling “Lockheed Lounge” for £2.4 million, or about $3.7 million.

“It’s hard to make a direct correlation between Pierce Instagramming us and the world record, but certainly it made the lounger more desirable,” Megan Newcome, Phillips’s director of digital strategy, said in a telephone interview. “Thanks, Pierce, for the shout-out.”

It was not the first time the art market had been influenced by images on Instagram. In the past few years, it has emerged as the social media platform of choice for many contemporary artists, galleries, auction houses and collectors, who use it to promote art — especially works by emerging artists — and to offer an early peek into studios, auction houses and art fairs. How much that actually translates into sales like the “Lockheed Lounge,” however, is still up for debate.

Instagram, which started in 2010, is an online mobile app that allows users to share square, Polaroid-style images and 15-second videos, with a network of more than 300 million users worldwide. Users build social networks of followers, and, most important for the art world, are introduced to artists they might like through a “discover” function. Elizabeth Bourgeois, a company spokeswoman, said that, globally, users share about 70 million photos each day via the app.

Simon de Pury, an international auctioneer who has 131,000 followers on his Instagram feed, @simondepury, said in a telephone interview: “So many people are either artists, collectors or gallery owners or photographers who are using it very actively, so it allows you to preview exhibitions happening everywhere in the world, and to see the works the minute the exhibitions open, rather than waiting to read about it in a review. That’s what makes it exciting.”

The world’s biggest auction houses also use their official Instagram feeds (Christie’s has 96,700 followers; Sotheby’s has 120,000) to post images of select items from coming sales.

But the central question in the art world is how many actual art sales are generated by the app. Instagram has no functionality that could make it useful as a direct sales platform, and no plans to add one, Ms. Bourgeois said. But quite often, art aficionados say they are using the app to preview works and request more information.

“When you see something on Instagram that’s hanging in a gallery somewhere and you want to acquire it, you can instantly call up the gallery,” Mr. de Pury said, adding that he had made many purchases this way. Who is using the platform this way is a matter of much fascination in the art world. In March, art news websites like artnet.com and hyperallergic.com were abuzz when it was reported that the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, an avid art collector, had bought “Nachlass,” a painting by the emerging artist Jean-Pierre Roy, for $15,000 over the phone after supposedly seeing it on Instagram.

Mr. Roy’s dealer, Morten Poulsen in Copenhagen, said the artist “had posted a detail image of the painting on Instagram.” After that, Mr. Roy received a message from Mr. DiCaprio, “asking us to keep the painting on hold until he saw high-res quality images of the work,” Mr. Poulsen said by email. “I sent him that, the deal was finalized and the painting went into Mr. DiCaprio’s collection.”

Lisa Schiff, an art adviser in New York for Mr. DiCaprio, said he had denied that the sale was based on an Instagram sighting, but she confirmed that Mr. DiCaprio did buy Mr. Roy’s painting through her office.

Whether the Instagram connection was accurate, the report, originally published on the Creators Project, a Vice.com blog, was republished on many top art news websites and blogs as an example of Instagram’s growing market influence.

A small survey by Artsy.net, an online platform that promotes and sells art, bears this influence out, with caveats. In April, the company surveyed 35 known collectors who each had more than 100 pieces of art in their collections and reported that just over half of them bought artworks from artists they had discovered on Instagram.

Christine Kuan, chief curator and director of strategic partnerships at Artsy, qualifies those numbers, saying that the platform’s audience is “young collectors and emerging collectors,” who are tech savvy and active on social media.

“A lot of seasoned collectors in the art world don’t use it as much,” Ms. Kuan said in a telephone interview. “They already have their own contacts in the gallery world and they go to art fairs, and may not be using Instagram that way.”

Ms. Newcome, the Phillips executive, said that at least for now, Instagram seemed to be used mostly as a promotional tool, rather than part of “a sales-driven strategy.”

“If one of our specialists has a favorite work in an upcoming sale, they’ll certainly ask for us to ‘give it a little love on Instagram,’ ” she said. “And you never know: You can literally post something on Instagram and a few minutes later have someone ask to buy it. These are the legends that have been developing around Instagram already.”
Source: The NY Times 

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