Social Media: A Virtual Art Gallery

With social media, content is king. In this case, when I say content I mean images.

This is why social media lends itself so well to promoting the visual arts. How could a field with the word VISUAL in its name have anything to lose from participating in platforms like Instagram or Tumblr, where people scroll through all kinds of creative content in order to like, reblog, and share images all day? It’s seemingly the perfect way to display creative visuals for up and coming artists. a_560x375

Social media is a virtual gallery for millions of people to see.

As someone who has always had an interest in film, photography, painting, and pretty much all other visual art forms, I find myself consuming images of art online more and more. Obviously, the images seen on my laptop may not be as impressive or to scale as their “irl” counterparts, but it allows me to connect with artists around the world and view work I would have never seen had I not stumbled upon their Tumblr or Instagram accounts.

Artists are now making themselves known on the web beyond just a personal website with an online portfolio and email address. With platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Pintrest, etc. there is an opportunity not only for artists to showcase work, but to get feedback, gain a following, sell their pieces, and connect with other artists. Like the use of social media in any field, engaging and connecting with people who appreciate your work has become easier than ever, making it possible to get things done faster than ever.

Artists can upload pictures of a painting on their Instagram and have someone asking to buy it before the paint has even dried. The quickness and ease of displaying one’s work on social media also lets artists gain celebrity and leverage their talent to get paying work much faster than before (as opposed to all the artists throughout history who were penniless and unknown until after their deaths). These artists gain clout within the online community that can then be translated into real world exhibitions, partnerships with brands, sales, and collaborations.

An example of this is the work of 20 year old photographer, Olivia Bee. Her success at a young age is a product of the rise in online sharing of images, her own talent and ambition, and engaging in self-promotion on social media. She began posting her amateur photos on her Flickr page at the age of 11 and after three years of honing her skills, her work was featured in a Converse shoe advertisement. She then went on to shoot campaigns for Nike, Fiat, Subaru, Van’s, and Levi’s among others. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar Germany, and the French magazine Le Monde. Olivia has also exhibited her work all over the world.

Part of an Adidas campaign shot by Olivia Bee.

Part of an Adidas campaign shot by Olivia Bee.


Part of a fashion campaign shot by Olivia for designer Roger Vivier.

There is clearly something to be said for her ability to promote her visual art online and turn that into real world job experiences. And she’s just one of many who are achieving success through these means.

This all sounds really great and simple, but this climb to fame obviously it takes distinct talent, a willingness to create work and display it for the entire world to see via the internet, and patience, because most of the time the fame doesn’t happen overnight.

Some may say the issue with social media opening up the possibilities for anyone to share what they’ve created is over-saturation. Everyone using social media platforms to promote himself or herself thinks he or she deserve to be the next famous photographer or installation artist or illustrator.There is more mediocre content online than ever, but is this a bad thing? The ability to post to social media to show people what you can do opens up a huge opportunity for people who wouldn’t necessarily get their voices heard otherwise. It creates a community that connects collaborators and allows people to support those who are striving toward similar goals and value visual art. And in most cases, the cream rises to the top, and those whose voices are worth hearing are, hopefully, heard.

The connection between visual art and social media doesn’t exist solely between artists and their audiences. Museums like the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Guggenheim Museum and so many others are able to share pictures or videos of exhibits on their Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.

Screen shot 2014-12-09 at 9.29.16 PM

MoMA uses their Instagram to connect with art fans across the globe.

This gives people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to see famous works of art in museums another avenue of exploration. Also, it encourages people who can visit those museums to do so and see the full exhibitions for themselves.

Obviously no picture on a little screen can stand in for the experience of seeing a work of art in person at its full scale, but it’s nice that people do have access to some form of the art at the touch of a button, and that artists can share their work with an audience regardless of where they are.


  1. Great post, Olivia! I totally agree with you that social media has offered artists so many more opportunities to pursue their passion. I think it has also opened the door to new kinds of art that might not have been imagined before. Even if artists aren’t looking to sell their work, social media can be a great option to just share what they love to do. I personally follow Brock Davis on Instagram and he always shares pictures of food art that I would have never seen without social media. He does some really cool advertising and graphic design for huge brands that I’ve seen outside of his Instagram and instantly recognize thanks to social media. ( I think these benefits of social media extend just as easily to all forms of art. I know Emily has written a great blog post on ballet and social media and her presentation on vimeo also highlights the artistic side of social media. There are plenty of opportunities now for artists to share their talents with the world, but the timeless problem of getting noticed is still something that will continue to be impossibly hard.

  2. Awesome post, Olivia!
    I’m not much an art enthusiast, so what you briefly alluded to by saying that museums can utilize various networks to connect with people seemed especially interesting to me. As someone who really wouldn’t know a big difference between a classic work of art and something that my roommate in Drawing 101 did, I sometimes feel that the museum-going crowd can be a little intimidating. But the beauty of social networks is, they are as social as you want them to be. I can follow The Museum of Modern Art on Instagram and never comment on a single piece, never once putting my opinions on the chopping block for people to prey upon. But like you said, it’s still an incredible way to take in some truly amazing content. All for free! Sounds like a good deal to me.

%d bloggers like this: