Instagram’s a great place to learn about and buy art. Like a friend who folds down a magazine page for you when they see something you might like, the app’s hashtags and technology make browsing simple, relentlessly suggesting even better accounts to scroll.
A new generation of artists, working solely online, have embraced the platform. “What I could do with my computer was much more sophisticated than what I could do with my hands,” digital artist Petra Cortright recently quipped in an interview. The 30-year-old Californian’s works are epic, varying from abstract floral prints to glitchy performance YouTube videos commissioned by Stella McCartney (who also designed her wedding dress last year).
Instagram art shopping may be the one time that hashtags aren’t lame. Lots of online collectors begin their search with the names of artists they like (#contemporaryart and #womenphotographers will lead you to great accounts). Essentially, it’s gallery hopping from the comfort of wherever you might be lounging.
These days, a reported 51% of collectors have bought works from artists they found on Instagram. Even blue-chip galleries like the Jay Jopling-founded White Cube get the gist. “By sharing images in real-time of artists’ museum shows and exhibitions on Instagram,” gallery director Peter Bentley Brandt says, “We are able to give the general public great insight into the work they create.” Or, as social media expert and art collector Karen Robinovitz puts it: “Collecting art is an addiction and Instagram is the dealer and pusher that enables it.” Here’s how to get going with your own collection.
If you’re looking for the Next Big Thing…
Instagram has helped establish a new generation of online artists. Take Jessica So Ren Tang and her sex-positive embroidered nudes; Coucou Suzette’s prints and posters; stationery, prints and accessories by New Yorker Baron Von Fancy; and Tania de Bono (the artist behind the Instagram account @thewriting), who sells her written works on commission.
If you’re a fan of #womenphotographers and women-made art…
“I draw women and their demons” reads Polly Nor’s Instagram bio — an apt description for her canvases of women surrounded by siren-red female devils. In an image posted a few weeks ago, Nor portrayed woman removing her skin to reveal the body of a demon alter ego. Nor’s stuff can be bought on her Instagram and website. If you’re looking for more great women-made art to scroll, start with Brooke Rothshank’s miniatures; Elizabeth Huey’s abstract paintings on wood; and photography that sidesteps the male gaze by Arvida Bystrom (who sells posters on her site starting at $20). One of my favorites is Monica Kim Garza. Her gorgeous, vivid paintings of strong women in the most standard of settings have gained her magazine commissions and a serious following. She sells canvases as well as sweaters, tees and pins on her site.
If you want to start making a statement…
Instagram artists subvert twee, 1950s connotations of pretty illustrated pictures to explore politics, women’s rights, feminism and social awkwardness. Joolee Loren deals with social anxiety, fashion-industry double standards, regretting speaking too soon and loads more in her distinctive pencil-and-paper style. Similarly renegade are Frances Cannon’s drawings of women, artist and curator Grace Miceli aka Art Baby Girl’s felt-tip pen illustrations, Robin Eisenberg’s illustrated pins and Maria-Ines Gul’s pencil and paint drawings, from women’s mouths full of pills to portraits.
If you’re a museum rat who admires contemporary curators…
Contemporary art curators like Kimberly Drew, the social media manager for The Met who’s otherwise known as Museum Mammy; The Brooklyn Museum’s Rujeko Hockley (who just co-curated the brilliant We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 on show at The Brooklyn Museum); and Mia Locks, who co-curated the Whitney Biennale 2017, all update their feeds with some of the best new art and artists around. They’re your go-to if you’re looking for ideas.
Grace is a London-based culture journalist and has written for The Guardian, New York Times, Interview Magazine, Vice, AnOther and others. Her book Play With Me: Women, Dolls and Art is out September this year with Laurence King Publishing.
Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt, featuring art by: Coucou Suzette via @coucousuzette, Elizabeth Huey via @elizabeth_huey, Polly Nor via @pollynor, Tania Debono via @thewriting, Jessica So Ren Tang via @jessicasorentang, Monica Kim Garza via @monicakimgarza, and Julie Houts via @jooleeloren.