The value of art in the digital age: Can social media platforms help?

Posted on September 4, 2017

How Digital Art Can Change The World (c) MeshMinds

The first in a series of ‘Art x Tech for Good’ events organised by MeshMinds in partnership with SGInnovate was held last Friday and it was standing room only! The events on the theme of ‘How Digital Art Can Change The World‘ aim to bring together artists, creatives, and tech innovators to explore how technology is changing the way we make and enjoy art as well as how digital art can be used to drive social change. Joan Ang, arts management student at LASALLE College of the Arts, shares her thoughts on the event and the topics raised:

There is no doubt that the rise of the digital age is constantly challenging us to use technology to our advantage in our everyday lives, and that includes artists and how they communicate their work to the audience. Panelists discussed how the rise of social media platforms can help to forge communities and promote opportunities for collaborations between like-minded individuals. By connecting artists and their audiences around the world, it empowers them to transcend cultural and geographical boundaries and come together to make a difference.

One recurring concern that came up during the event was how artists can protect the value of their work on the internet? Is the digital age actually a threat to artists who share their work only to be copied by someone else? This brought to mind the controversial story of Richard Prince whose New Portraits exhibition consisting of 37 screenshots of Instagram photos sold out at New York Frieze. Prince is “known for appropriating found images and treads a fine line between copyright infringement and art” and “successfully side-steps copyright laws by removing the captions on Instagram photographs he has replicated, replacing them with his own.” 

Another topic touched on how social media is changing the way we enjoy art. Take for example the recent discussion surrounding Yayoi Kusama’s Singapore show and its popularity for “Outfit of the Day” (OOTD) posts. Interestingly, the artist herself fully embraces the spreading of her art through social media.  Mika Yoshitake, who curated Kusama’s show in Washington, D.C., shares in this article how she doesn’t see the selfie infatuation as a threat but instead a “part of the communal experience Kusama intended”. Kusama herself has said, “My hometown used to lack understanding in contemporary art and that was hard for me. Nowadays however, my ideas and creativity have become favourably received so much that it is reported in newspapers, on TV and in social media. It is important that my art is shared with so many people in many different forms, and I am grateful for that.”

From the audience, artist Bryan Ho rose an interesting question on how to go from having built a successful social media following to making money. We discussed using social media as a marketing tool for offline services: perhaps from his popular ‘how to draw’ videos he could explore offering his services to the education sector; and to corporates who want to expand the creative skills of their employees.

The event was a great opportunity to explore the digital revolution of art. Building on this, take a look at in-depth analysis from Sarah Boxer on the Instagram age being the driving force for the Kusama experience, and the bigger part it plays in exploring social issues. In addition, you may enjoy this insightful talk by Jia Jia Fei, Director of Digital, The Jewish Museum in New York to learn about why and how museums need not fear the rise of social media but should fully embrace and utilise online platforms to keep up with the transformation of the arts through technology: