These 7 Digital Residencies Prove That the Hottest New Exhibition Space May Be on Instagram
Artists from around the globe are flocking to Instagram—and it's leading to some very real-life opportunities.
One of the art world’s more desirable exhibition spaces isn’t inside a starchitect-designed museum or a white-walled gallery in Chelsea—it’s on your phone. Instagram, the photo-sharing app with 800 million users, has rapidly become an invaluable space for artists and curators to showcase exciting new work. Now, the platform is also becoming a hub for a more traditional art-world phenomenon: residencies.
While the rise of Instagram in visual culture often gets a bad rap, the digital platform has proven it can lead to real-life opportunities for both artists and curators. In 2015, Katy Hessel started the Instagram account “The Great Women Artists,” showcasing a wide range of images by female artists, from the Neoclassical painter Angelica Kauffman to 2017 MacArthur “genius” Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Two years later, Hessel is now curating a real-life show of 15 UK-based artists.
One of the artists in the show has herself been plucked from Instagram obscurity. The account of Helen Downie, aka Unskilled Worker, caught the attention of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. She ultimately ended up collaborating with the luxury brand.
The power of Instagram success hasn’t gone unnoticed by cultural institutions. A number of organizations have established their own virtual residencies to help artists work directly with the platform. Some of these e-residencies give artists complete control over the organization’s Instagram feed; others invite the artists to use the app to inform their artwork.
Regardless of format, digital residencies have one thing in common. In contrast to their brick-and-mortar counterparts, they don’t require you to move to a creaky cabin in the woods; the only essential tool is a smartphone.
Below, we’ve rounded up seven international e-residencies designed to help artists reach new audiences and make Instagram an essential part of their practice.
1. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, @lacma
In July 2017, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced its inaugural digital residency #LACMAInstaResidency, an experimental program that gave native Angeleno Guadalupe Rosales (@veterans_and_rucas and @map_pointz) creative control over the museum’s feed. What began as a short-term project was extended to a 12-week digital takeover that ultimately resulted in 15,000 new Instagram followers for the museum. A local artist and archivist, Rosales uses Instagram to preserve pre-Internet era images from the Latinx community, and having access to the internationally-recognized museum amplified her message and exposed a broad audience to a historically marginalized population.
2. Arts Catalyst UK, @artscatalyst
An organization focusing on the convergence of art and science, Arts Catalyst has commissioned more than 140 artist projects since its inception in 1995. The Instagram residency is awarded to individuals whose work explores the nexus of visual culture and science. The current artist in residence, Korallia Stergides, is using the platform to document her series “Fishing the Kourkouna,” tracing a communal fishing activity that originated with her father’s displacement after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The artist is examining how the migration of the kourkouna fish relates to Cyprus’s geographic position and highlights how refugees adapt as a community during times of unrest.
3. Co-Lab Projects, @colabprojectsbitres
Co-Lab Projects is a non-profit gallery that was founded in 2008 in Austin, Texas. In addition to the physical gallery space, local artist Sean Ripple started the #bitres program in 2014. He offers artists full creative control over gallery’s feed for one month. Curator Vladimir Mejia told artnet News: “We encourage artists to think of the smartphone screen similar to a traditional gallery space. To consider scale, timing, app features…and how to translate mediums like performance art into the digital realm.”
4. East Bristol Contemporary, @ebcontemporary
The artist-run space based in Bristol’s Trinity Centre has expanded its mission to provide support and opportunities for artists working in the South West England area. The month-long digital residencies allow for any and all creative use of the feed, inviting artists to explore documentation of site-specific works or simply to reach a larger audience without having to navigate the logistics of a brick-and-mortar space.
5. Elika Gallery, @elikagallery
This art gallery in Athens, Greece, began its Instagram residency initiative in October 2016 with an eye toward developing more collaborative projects without having to overhaul its budget. Elika decided to use the digital platform to promote emerging artists (instead of leveraging it for promotional or advertising purposes). The gallery has since continued to extend invitations to both artists and curators to participate in digital projects. The residency term is typically one month, often in conjunction with shows based in the gallery’s physical space. Following a recent hiatus, keep an eye out for upcoming takeover news.
Instagram post featuring artwork by Catriona Gallagher, @catrigallagher
6. SHELF, @shelf_london
The brainchild of London and Wales-based artists Bex Massey and Sarah Roberts, SHELF works with artists and other arts organizations around the UK, focusing on networking opportunities for artists and curators. The most recent Instagram residency took place from August through November 2017 and featured 10 artists participating in the perplexingly titled project “I Carried a Watermelon.”
More information about SHELF programming online.
7. OrgaOrga, @organizedorgasms
A project space based in Mainz, Germany, OrgaOrga lends its account to artists to document their life and work over short periods of time, exploring issues of intersectional feminism and gender identity in the digital age. In addition to the digital residencies, OrgaOrga recently hosted “Tell Tales,” a two-week art festival that aimed to explore the history of the German city in contrast with artists’ personal narratives and experiences.
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