Instagram as a boundary breaker for new artists

How Instagram enables new artists to be known more easily by breaking down communication boundaries with the public and professionals...

28 Nov 2018 1654 Views

Written by Alexandra Anthoine-Badaroux

21st century is the time for art to be less complicated. Before the Instagram era, art was reserved to an elite and it was tough for artists to be known and understood. In the following, I aim at explaining why Instagram is a powerful tool for artists to break boundaries by activating communication with their public and professionals.

What is the essence of Instagram?

Instagram is part of the Web 2.0 digital ecosystem. It is a platform based on exchanges of visual content only. As a social medium, it is merely a universal tool aiming at:

  • enhancing communication,
  • developing cultural and social exchanges,
  • promoting brands and people in a more tactical way (Deighton & Korfeld, 2009).

Instagram has the ability to engage people coming from all over the world, at any time, everywhere. The Instagram network has increased from 1 million active members per month in 2010, to 700 million in 2017 (Webmarketing Conseil, 2017); no wonder why images go viral in a snap of fingers.

Now think about art!

Isn’t it also universal and aiming at exchanging culture, images and ideas? However, people very often picture a halo of complexity around art in general. It seems to be inaccessible and too abstract to easily get the message the artist wants to convey. For a very long time, art was surrounded with boundaries that artists and people now manage to overcome thanks to Instagram.

Patrick Barwise and Seàn Meehan argue that “even though social media platforms give companies or people powerful tools and speed, it is far from enough to make a success out of it” (2010). Using Instagram is relevant for new artists because they create visual substance with a meaning behind. Success is primarily possible for artists because: the basics of the two spheres match perfectly and images are processed at a very rapid pace (Parkinson, 2012). Boundaries already start breaking down due to the fact that the Instagram platform serves art on a silver plate.Annette Labedzki is probably the most striking example of the power Instagram has on new artists’ rise. Her work went viral during summer 2016. She creates mixed paint videos that allowed her to gather more then 800’000 followers.

Annette Labedzki’s Instagram account Marbled 2017 – Annette Labedzki

How do new artists leverage on Instagram to promote their work?

Artists can no longer be considered as tormented and starving recluse people and are now managed like brands, online and offline. According to Jean-Noël Kapferer, a strategic brand encompasses three major dimensions: the concept, the name and symbols attached to it, and the product and experience (Kapferer, 2012). Being an artist nowadays equals to following the four steps presented below:

  1. create artwork around a concept
  2. communicate to increase awareness/recognition
  3. manage identity and reputation
  4. find customers

Ben Moreau, an emergent photographer based in Zurich, states that: “Instagram allowed me to capture the attention of million pairs of eyes in only 10 months, whereas, in real life, my work would have been seen by maximum 500 people of my personal network only. Being active on Instagram took boundaries down and made it possible for me to get in contact with people I could have never reached in real life. I now sell my photographs to people, and work for companies too. Instagram has been the first lever to turn my passion into a business” (interview, November 5, 2017).

Break Series Italy 2017 - Ben Moreau Break Series France 2017 – Ben Moreau Archi Series Germany 2017 – Ben Moreau


Breaking barriers for artists is about engaging in two types of communication. Firstly, with the public which represents anyone who is interested in art and secondly with the professionals such as art galleries’ owners or other artists.

Increase in awareness

 The first connection an artist has to nurture, is the link with its public, in order to be known and esteemed. Instagram can be seen as an alternative medium to decomplexify art and to make it more accessible to people. Going to a museum or seeing an exhibition are involving acts. If you have never been used to experience it, you will probably never end up seeing art in real life. Instagram indoubtly makes art less intimidating. Having a look at an artist’s Instagram account, and talking about it is an easy way of being active. The easy use pushes more people to do it and therefore enables artists to broaden the base of individuals seeing and interacting on their work. As a result, the network and community grow and so does the artist’s recognition.

Engagement of  people

Speaking about recognition, I would also say that people engage more in talking about art on Instagram because they feel good about it. George Christodoulides states that “the internet is also great for addressing the individual’s social needs, such as in the case of developing online communities” (2009). The democratization of art via Instagram creates physical accessibility and enables reflective practice. People can quickly and easily accumulate knowledge about art and start forming groups to discuss it. The underlying emotional value of art pushes them to share content and state their opinion. This constant flow benefits the artists by increasing visibility.

Besides, Instagram enables artists to create a more intimate relationship with people and to let them enter their sphere.  The old narcissistic and secretive way of dealing with their emotions and work is not viable on social media. Being understood is now part of the equation.

The ceramic maker Adam Russell also known as “Key West Pottery” fully grasped the necessity of fueling these exchanges. He interacts almost everyday by posting videos of him creating pieces of art and explaining his approach to art. Adam Russell (Key West Pottery) – showing how to sculpt a vase

Creation of professional opportunities

Having a broad base of people appreciating your work is one important thing, but artists must also focus on getting in touch with professionals.

Instagram empowers artists by providing a virtual free gallery that can be easily “visited” by professionals of the field and other artists. It facilitates making contacts without facing any boundaries. For an emergent artist, the simple fact of subscribing to art galleries’ accounts all over the world is already a way to be noticed and to catch the attention of powerful people. Ben Moreau states that: “Communication on Instagram is very much uninhibited; it takes boundaries down. I never hesitated to contact another artist to get some advice or just to exchange about different methods of work. And, when I got my first like from a very famous art gallery it felt like it was not even real” (interview, November 5, 2017).

Peer-to-peer connectivity is another significant feature brought out by Instagram (Donelan, Kear & Ramage, 2012). Having the chance to connect with fellow artists can lead to unexpected opportunities that would have been unreachable in the traditional networking setting (Agora Gallery, 2016).

Christodoulides states that “branding on the internet exemplifies participation and co-creation of meaning” (Christodoulides, 2009). In the present case, partnerships between artists stand for co-creation and reinforce the possibility of success.

New actors taking the role of agents

The link between art and Instagram has become so strong that some people saw the opportunity to take this even further.

Created in November 2017, the Backbone platform is an idea developed by two Swiss entrepreneurs aiming at promoting new artists. “One week, one artist” is their leitmotiv. The platform highlights one new artist per week and offers people the possibility to buy pieces in limited edition. It accelerates the recognition process for artists exhibiting on the platform and creates a vaste community of like-minded people. They use Instagram as a central tool to spot new talents and get in contact with them in a simple way.

Thinking further

 John Deighton and Leora Kornfeld ellaborate that “the form of inter-activity most attractive to marketing is that which can facilitate peoples’ identity projects and contribute to the collective making of meaning” (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009). By involving artists, people and professionals in cultural exchanges, online art manages to create the highest value for society. Breaking communication boundaries for new artists is certainly a way to help them gaining recognition. However, I think that it goes even beyond. I would like to draw your attention to another type of boundary that Instagram is breaking down. Discovering art and the underlying messages artists want to convey is also a question of open-mindedness and tolerance. This flow of creativity, reflection and shared impressions enables to break boundaries within society.



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Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.