Hans Ulrich Obrist Says Beuys and Warhol Would Have Loved Instagram

The Swiss star-curator won the award worth €25,000 Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Surface Magazine via Die Zeit

Avid social media user and star-curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist, has praised the role of Instagram in transforming how we see art today on many different occasions.

Now, in a recent interview with German magazine The European, HUO spoke extensively about the relationship between social media and art, claiming that “Joseph Beuys would have enjoyed Instagram.”

Beuys famously declared that every man is an artist. However, Obrist explains, “the boundaries between professional artists and non-professional artists were not as close back then as is often portrayed today.” HUO divulged that he regularly scouts emerging artists on Instagram.

Joseph Beuys (1967) Photo: Liselotte Strelow via Landschaftsverband Rheinland

What would have Joseph Beuys’s Instagram account looked like?
Photo: Liselotte Strelow via Landschaftsverband Rheinland

He then goes on to make the following deduction: “The artist Cory Archangel found Warhol’s computers and discovered that he already started to create art on the computer back then,” which leads HUO to conclude that, were he alive today, Andy Warhol would have also used the online photo-sharing app.

On the other hand, Obrist said, while “art can be created on Instagram,” he still believed that “museums are more important than ever because of the massive amnesia from which we suffer. Art must be a protest against forgetting.”

“In the digital age,” he observed, “we have a lot of information, but it is not synonymous with memories or explanations. Digital art has some catching up to do.”

An example of Obrist's personal Instagram handwriting project Photo: @hansulrichobrist via Instagram

An example of Obrist’s personal Instagram handwriting project
Photo: @hansulrichobrist via Instagram

Speaking about his personal Instagram account, where the marathon-curator exclusively shares images of handwritten notes, Obrist offered the following insight: “I started to think about the disappearance of handwriting,” and “I found it very exciting to revive handwriting, which is disappearing because of digital media, through the same medium.”

He also lamented the over-use of the word “curator” and called for a new coinage to better describe his profession. “When everyone’s a curator,” he said, “no one is an expert.”

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei also recently transformed social media into art, painstakingly transcribing some of his tweets onto paper using traditional Chinese calligraphy methods.

And Richard Prince sparked a heated debate about appropriation when he culled images from Instagram users for his $100,000 paintings.


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