Turning the Art World on its Head

I tried very hard this week to write about a non-covid subject and I actually found one very accidentally.   While perusing Instagram I came across an influencer’s plug to purchase art with all proceeds going directly to the UK’s NHS. The pieces were all donated by the artists and the gallery waived their commissions so 100% of proceeds were being donated.   

So I bit, I checked out the gallery knowing I couldn’t afford something that was inevitably going to cost me my annual salary, and a few new artists caught my eye. I absolutely loved their pieces and they weren’t entirely out of the question price wise!

The art was fresh, modern, and full of bright colors.  I googled one artist, Sophie Tea, and found her Instagram and many articles written about her success and about how she and other new artists have built their entire art careers entirely on social media platforms. 

They’re changing the art world by skipping the process of selling through galleries, who take a large commission forcing artist to increase their prices, and going directly to their buyers. Now this isn’t unlike a lot of new retailers in the social media age, but they credit Facebook and Instagram with helping them reach millions in sales and also to allowing their art to be experienced by people of all income levels.

A 2013 Forbes article interviewed one of these artists Iris Scott, “In the arts community, many artists are taught they should sell their work at the highest possible price to build prestige—and Iris Scott had not escaped hearing that message. “Our society has a really bad habit of telling this story that people won’t think something is valuable unless it’s priced high,” However, Scott didn’t agree with that mindset. “It doesn’t really speak to the audience as an equal,” she says. She liked the idea of democratizing her art.”

I am completely ignorant to the traditional rules of the art world. This has been a deliberate choice because I’d prefer to do what I feel is right, rather than what an archaic industry says is right.

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I found that many of these artists are even better at marketing.  From the start of their careers, they took advantage of this generations FOMO.  “The number one strategy for launching an art career is publicly creating this phenomenon that everything is selling,” she explains. Iris Scott explains.

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They tease pieces on their Instagrams, show exactly what their processes are, and also create very few pieces so urgency is high and pieces sell within minutes. And to ensure art is available to everyone, the pieces are priced relatively inexpensively with some offering 12 month payment plans, giving pieces away before even receiving the full payment which Sophie Tea has said has been 99.5% successful.   

I found these stories encouraging! Even though I still may not be ready to thrown down $200 – $500 for a piece now, as someone who appreciates beautiful art, it doesn’t seem as exclusive as I’ve always considered the art world before. And maybe with the money I’m saving from going out to restaurants and bars during this quarantine, I can afford to buy something off Instagram sooner rather than later!

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