London Exhibition Explores the Phenomenon of Art Popularized on Instagram

The stars of 'Instagram art' get their chance at the white cube.

Ryan Hewett, Makeba (2016). Courtesy Unit London and Avant Arte.

Despite its seeming old age in a world that savors the new, Instagram has proven itself time and again to be a mainstay in the art scene. Artists continue to use the picture-sharing app as a tool to augment—or even launch—careers, while some dealers cite it as a surprisingly effective facilitator of sales.

In recognizing this phenomenon, Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt of Unit London, which itself began its self-described “peripatetic” beginnings on social media, set out to team up with the Instagram account Avant Arte to present an exhibition that explores the impact of the app on the arts.

Exhibiting the works of 16 artists, hailing from countries including the US, South Africa, Norway, Russia, Italy, and Saudi Arabia, “AVANT ARTE X UNIT LONDON” promises to give the two organizations’ combined social media following of roughly 580,000 people the opportunity to view works previously seen only online in the flesh.

“We’re in so many networks around the world that when we post something to Instagram we’ll potentially sell it there and then,” Burt told Business Insider UK last January. “It’s a very strong foundation for our sales. About 50 percent of our sales are online.”

Following on the heels of Unit’s first Instagram-based exhibition, “Paintguide,” which reportedly had lines around the block to get in, “AVANT ARTE X UNIT LONDON” draws upon Avant Arte’s most popular or well-liked Instagram posts, bringing the work of those artists into the London gallery space.

“It asks the viewer to question the notion that Instagram favors a narrow aesthetic of art,” Burt and Kennedy told artnet News.

Featured artists include Jason Seif, Lionel Smit, Henrik Uldalen, Brian Willmont, Ryan Hewett, Ivan Alifan, Sandra Chevrier, Stephan Doitschinoff, Anthony Lister, and Massimo Agostinelli.

“We began as a pop-up with no permanent gallery space. As we moved from one temporary location to another, often the only place we could be found was on Instagram. We couldn’t have done what we have done without social media, so we feel an affinity with Avant Arte,” Kennedy and Burt said in a statement.

“While we harness the power of social media at every turn, we believe that art is a fundamentally human experience and should be enjoyed as such,” they concluded.

AVANT ARTE X UNIT LONDON” runs from January 12 – February 2 at Unit London, 147 Wardour Street, London W1F 8WD.


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