10 Tips for Using Instagram (takes over art market) to Build an Art Career;Auction record broken, thanks to Instagram


The art world is changing, and it’s no secret. With the advent of websites like Art Rank, collectors can easily find the names of artists who are already performing well. On Instagram, collectors are able to discover new and exciting artists, determine which galleries to visit, and buy art all from their iPhones.

Instagram is the place to make a name for yourself among collectors and galleries. According to a recent study conducted by Artsy in an article by Elena Soboleva, Instagram is becoming a staggeringly important driver for the art world and sales. 51.5% of collectors on Instagram have purchased from artists they have discovered on Instagram, and over 40% of the collectors surveyed own over 100 works, which means they are probably serious followers of the scene. These collectors use Instagram to follow current trends and discover the artists who are dominating the conversation. They’re also addicted to Instagram and the art they find there while they are on the prowl for new artists: 87% check Instagram at least twice per day and 55% check Instagram more than five times per day. 31% of collectors have purchased specific artworks directly off of Instagram. These numbers are encouraging, and you can take advantage of them whether or not you have gallery representation, which is a major change to an art market where artists can easily meet collectors, often without a middle man.

1. Create a simple and effective profile

Your name on Instagram should be your actual name or the name of your art collective. Avoid pseudonyms because they can make it hard for your followers to figure out who you are and find your work outside of Instagram. For example, my name on Instagram is Paul Weiner (@poweiner).

In your profile, you will want to list basic information about yourself. Keep it simple and easy to follow so interested parties can contact you. Include relevant information such as your location, e-mail, website, and representation if you have it. If you’re a current student, omit that information for now. You need to look like a professional artist ready to show and sell artwork, and admitting that you’re a student will not help your cause. Make use of this space to include your most important website since the profile is the only place on Instagram where you can use a hyperlink.

Sample: “Artist living in (City, State). Represented by ______ Gallery in (City, State).”

2. Grow thousands of organic followers

Start off by searching through relevant hashtags: #contemporaryart #painting #sculpture #installationart #printmaking #whatevermediumyouuse. You will find that these hashtags have different audiences. #contemporaryart tends to include professional artists and galleries while #painting has a more diverse culture with a higher percentage of amateurs. Search for these hashtags, and like a large quantity of posts, especially those that you legitimately have interest in.

When you see installation shots and galleries or interesting artists, click on the profile, like 4 or 5 more photos, and leave a comment. When the user sees that you’ve shown interest, they will take a peek at your profile and may like your photos or even follow you. The trick is that you have to give others some love in order for them to want to engage with you. #contemporaryart is the most effective place for finding quality contacts while #painting or #printmaking will provide you with a large quantity of followers who have less to offer in terms of career opportunities. Both types of contacts are important. You need amateur artist followers who are easily impressed, become your fans, and like everything you post so that the high-level contacts will respect that you have a following and be more likely to offer you opportunities because you have growing momentum and influence.

You can also target local artists and galleries by using hashtags with your city or state name in them. For instance, I search for #denverart on a daily basis to keep in touch with the local art scene.

3. Attract influential followers

You will need to follow influential art world figures because they are friends with collectors, important galleries, and they also post artwork worth looking at and learning from. Open the following lists for these art world people and start looking through all of their contacts, which often include collectors, journalists, gallery workers, and less famous friends who still have a lot of influence and are more likely to respond to you. Like their contacts’ photos in the same way that you search through hashtags, 4-5 likes per profile. You can also use this trick on artists who are currently selling well to find hot collectors and galleries. Another way to find highly engaged followers is to like photos on profiles of people who comment and like photos for influential people. Find a starter pack of a few names worth following below:

@nielskantor, @stefansimchowitz, @zachfeuer, @collecteurs, @jerrysaltz, @fashen, @pibsen, @theartinsidernyc, @vikmuniz, @robertsuss, @picklebeholding, @exhibitiona, @theamazingpoppingeyes

3. Only use this profile for art-related activities

You can make another Instagram for selfies, food, and embarrassing photos you will delete in the morning. This page is for your newly completed artwork, behind-the-scenes photos of you working in your studio, installation shots in galleries, photos of you with art world influencers you want to court, and work by other artists who you admire.

4. Develop professional documentation of your artwork

As a general rule, you should use high resolution photos of your art. You want a nice mix of close-ups and installation shots of your work hanging in galleries. Frame your work before taking photos. Make it look like you take yourself seriously because you are a professional artist, and people who are serious about  buying and selling artwork want to know that you are also serious. Pay a professional photographer to take photos of your work on a white wall if you have to, but you can also take your own photos or use free mock-ups of frames and white walls you can find online as long as you don’t lie about the scale of your work.

Professional presentation will serve you well in the long run outside of Instagram since you will have beautiful documentation of your work when applying for residencies, sending portfolios to clients, building a website, applying to grad school, or finding a professorship. It’s worth the investment, and you aren’t likely to get far if you don’t prove that you’re serious.

5. Interact with your followers

They call it social media for a reason. Go out and talk to the people who keep liking your artwork. Always respond to comments and direct messages. You never know who might be contacting you or if they want to buy your art. If you respond to commenters and comment on other profiles, you will start to see huge levels of engagement. Aside from making you feel like a champion, that engagement gives confidence to collectors and galleries that your art is valuable to others.

Post comments on influential Instagram accounts. Sometimes, the owner of the account will start liking your photos and notice you. Other times, you will get prime real estate when thousands of that influencer’s followers see your comment and follow it to your profile.

When you get to be good enough friends with some of your followers, you can start adding them on Facebook.

6. Write meaningful captions

Tell the story behind your artwork. Make your followers fall in love with your ideas as much as your imagery. When your galleries and collectors start to see you as a human rather than an account, you will differentiate yourself from other artists. People will start e-mailing you with questions and starting interesting conversations.

Don’t hit your followers over the head with lots of information all the time, though. It’s fine to drop a paragraph of text every 10 photos, but also offer them pure visual seduction on some photos to draw them in. Your followers will tire of the long posts if you write too much, too often.

When writing captions, you should also include 4-5 hashtags. Use hashtags that are appropriate to your medium and location. For instance, I often use #contemporaryart, #painting, #printmaking, #drawing, and #denverart.

7. Take your followers behind the scenes

Post photos of yourself standing in front of artwork, spending time in the studio, meeting with other artists and art world people, and the creative process. What’s great about Instagram is that you can show everyone what happens during your life leading up to the exhibition instead of just finished artwork. This is another strategy for humanizing yourself, standing out from the crowd, and becoming iconic.

8. Hashtag your name on photos of your artwork

When collectors (61% of them) are considering buying your artwork, they will look at #yournamehere to see your work in bulk. Give them something to look at, and they will be more likely to buy your artwork.

9. Understand the visual tastes of Instagram users

Here is a quote from Embracing Instagram: Quality Content Curation:

Curalate recently performed a study on image qualities and the engagement they drive. The key results are as follows: use one dominant color in your images, keep your images light and bright, allow a lot of background space for viewers to breathe in, don’t shy away from beautiful textures or patterns, low saturation or black and white photos perform well, and blue is the best color for engagement. While these findings aren’t exhaustive, they can be helpful guidelines for getting started on Instagram.”

10. Build hype around your exhibitions

When you are about to have an exhibition, invite them to your opening by sending direct messages to followers who you have a good rapport with. Also ask them to repost photos of your artwork to build hype around the exhibition. This action has the added benefit of making your followers feel valued and as if they are a part of your team. Important people to direct message include collectors, members of the press, and curators you want to work with in the future.

You can also send direct messages to artists you want to trade artwork with, arts organizations you want to talk to, or people you want to engage on collaborative projects.

Please feel free to contact me with further questions about Instagram and other social media platforms. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. You can also follow me on Instagram @poweiner.


NEW YORK•• 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 Pierce Brosnan visited the showroom of the Phillips auction house in London.

The actor posted a photo of himself in front of a work he admired: the Lockheed Lounge, a space-age aluminium chaise longue by 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 (S$5.15 million).

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