Our Experiences with Art are Changing. Is it for Better or for Worse?

The art world is an industry that has been entrenched in traditional methods and ways of thinking for centuries, but it is no big secret that the art world is rapidly changing. We’re seeing differences in mediums used, the platforms in which art is sold and marketed, but, perhaps most obviously, the way we experience art is changing. While many still treasure and value art galleries as almost church-like — with reverence and hushed conversations, trends are turning towards more immersive and interactive exhibits.

Some of these exhibits exist solely for social media, namely, Instagram.

 Picture by Melia Robinson, Business Insider
Picture by Melia Robinson, Business Insider

“No pictures, please,” no longer applies. These ‘grammable exhibits feature brightly coloured walls, props you can play with, and in some cases, the rooms are lit with smartphone photography in mind.

These works allow the viewers to immerse themselves in the art rather than simply viewing from an “outsider looking in” perspective that much of the traditional art world offers.

Rain Room Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass’s Rain Room, which debuted in London in 2012, features an experience unlike any other. LACMA acquired Rain Room for their permanent collection in 2017.

Infinity Mirrors Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit has been taking the world by storm. The exhibit is a retrospective on her 65-year career and is perfect for social media. While thousands take selfies inside the mirrored rooms, some criticism has fallen on those who partake in the playground effect the exhibit has as tone-deaf and superficial because Kusama’s works have centred on her lifelong struggle with mental illness and emotional abuse she faced.

Color Factory Located in San Francisco, the Color Factory features 15 completely immersive experiences that were designed entirely with Instagram in mind. Scratch and sniff walls, a giant Lite Brite you can play with, a massive yellow ball pit; each room designed by artists and creatives to be conceptual and photogenic.

Cloud Gate On the more traditional side of the spectrum falls public art. One of the most well known public art pieces exists in Chicago’s Millennium Park and has been nicknamed ‘The Bean.’ Cloud Gate was created by artist Anish Kapoor and was officially unveiled in 2006. It has become a must-see tourist attraction. Hashtag searches on Instagram for #thebean and #cloudgate brought back close to 800,000 results.

Some have asked if we can consider these ‘made for Instagram’ exhibits real art, but there is a good argument that social media has opened a door to many who can’t travel to see major works. With a simple geotag or hashtag search anyone can find thousands of posts on various channels to vicariously live and appreciate the experiences themselves.

The art world has often been thought as inaccessible to many, but the sometimes playful nature of these works reaches audiences that otherwise might not have been interested in entering an art gallery or museum. Social media is driving demand, and, perhaps, there is no use in fighting it.

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