How Instagram is changing the business of art

How Instagram is changing the business of art


Artist CJ Hendry has abandoned the traditional gallery and dealer model of selling in a sign of the power of Instagram.

Hendry has used the social network to build her own customer base and sells her work only through her Instagram account.

Read more: How to use Instagram to build your business

Hendry’s 200,000 followers snap up her work usually as soon as, or even before she has posted them. 

Her works are priced at $50,000 each and she is currently exhibiting ‘50 Foods in 50 Days’ in Fitzroy, with all works already sold before the gallery even opened.

Dr Cara Wrigley, a senior lecturer of design-led innovation at the Queensland University of Technology, has used Hendry as a case study in how Instagram can be repurposed to disrupt the centuries-old business model of the art sector.

“From a design perspective, CJ is a fascinating example of the power and speed of digital disruption,” Wrigley said in a statement.

“Our findings show she’s used Instagram very effectively to bypass the conservative business model of Australia’s art sector, in which artists compete for exhibition space in galleries to build a profile and sell works – galleries whose cut of the sales can be as much as 50%.”

Hendry uses Instagram to document each of her work’s progress and then posts the finished products while interacting with her followers along the way seeking feedback and suggestions on which objects to draw.

“Through this strategy of using a singular digital channel, CJ has connected emotionally to her audience, carefully designing the experience to bring the audience along the journey with her, from conception to curation,” Wrigley said.

Established galleries are also using Instagram but as an adjunct to other marketing activities.

Sophie Gannon, owner of Sophie Gannon Gallery, told SmartCompany she uses Instagram to promote exhibitions at her gallery.

“I’m happy to accommodate that. I don’t mind how people see an exhibition, but when it comes to purchasing a significant piece, I think you really do need a physical experience of the art,” Gannon says.

“The best way to view art is in person, to have a physical encounter.”

Gannon says the increasing reliance by the art world on social media, and in particular Instagram, is a response to reduced foot traffic through galleries.

“Everyone is redoing websites and posting more installation shots online so you can experience the exhibition without going,” she says.

“[Instagram] definitely helps bring attention to an exhibition that might have more expensive works, but if someone is going to spend more money on a piece they are going to come in.”

Gannon says she has sold works purely from posting them on Instagram although she believes the social network is better suited to more affordable art works such as the limited edition prints of contemporary works offered by Contemporary Editions.

“We haven’t even opened yet but Rebecca Judd credited Contemporary Editions on Instagram and consequently we got a few hundred new followers and a couple of sales,” says Gabrielle MacTaggart who heads Contemporary Editions.


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