11 Handy Hashtags for Navigating the Art World

The Twitter and Instagram trends every art nerd needs to know.

Photo by @missmillemaria, with Ron Mueck's "Boy," categorized under the #ArtWatchers hashtag

Photo by @missmillemaria, with Ron Mueck’s “Boy,” appearing under the #ArtWatchers hashtag
Image: Courtesy @missmillemaria Instagram

“I gave a lecture once where someone in the audience seriously asked, ‘is it true that you have to use at least five hashtags per Instagram post?,’” JiaJia Fei, the Guggenheim’s associate director of digital marketing, told me recently.

The answer to that query is “no,” but the fact that it stood out as a burning question shows that hashtags—which themselves have only been around since 2007, when they were invented by Chris Messina, a former Google employee—have become an important part of the way that art circulates via platforms like Twitter and Instagram, just as they have become a vital tool in politics, activism, and many other fields.

Major public art projects come pre-branded with hashtags (think Creative Time’s #karawalkerdomino), and most big art events spawn their own (thus #whibi becomes the place where people share their gripes about the Whitney Biennial).

When it comes to tapping into conversations that escape a specific event, however, you quickly run into problems of clutter: because everyone on Twitter who has ever put a brush to canvas tags their painting #painting, it’s not that useful. There are, however, a number of hashtags that are useful for keeping track of different key conversation in contemporary art, magic passwords that are more granular than #art but less specific than #JennyHolzerAtHauserAndWirthSomerset.

Below are 11 worth checking in on.

The go-to tag for people who care about art as a vehicle of learning, and all the debates accompanying this important subject.

#artselfie / #museumselfie / #museumselfieday
Credit for coining #ArtSelfie goes to sharp art critic Brian Droitcoir. Its power has been undeniable—though you could overstate it: 23,000-plus Instagram mentions is impressive by art standards, but fairly modest in Internet terms (the feline-themed #catselfie has racked up 300,000-plus usages). Outreach and audience development departments, however, are betting on the power of the #ArtSelfie and its near cousin, #MuseumSelfie, to lure young people: #MuseumSelfieDay is set to return next year.


Honestly this one deserves to be bigger than it is. But if you want a quick peek into the pungent anxieties of art school—or a place to vent about same—it’s something. (Or perhaps the University of Florida’s Arts Education program’s hashtag, #ufarted, dubbed the “unofficial hashtag for arts education,” is more your speed?)

Behold, people looking at art around the world. If you love art and also love looking at the back of people’s heads, this is the hashtag for you.

I have been so far underwhelmed by the results of the annual #AskACurator day. But the event, initiated in 2010 by prolific museum blogger Mar Dixon, is a great idea, and it returns September 16. More than 700 museums will be participating on Twitter; check Dixon’s blog to see if one near you is on board.


Moribund at this point, but there’s no reason why this classic bit of art nerdery couldn’t break out again at any moment. In early 2013, a post on the LadiesUpFront Tumblr went art-viral. Soon, institutions including the J. Paul Getty Museum were posting emoji-based riffs on works from their collections, along with members of the public.

The brain child of Instagram maestro Dave Krugman, #emptymet became a sensation last year, capitalizing on people’s fascination with deserted spaces by posting pics of New York’s encyclopedic museum outside of work hours. That success has in turn inspired a rash of copycat #empty initiatives, including the recent #emptyfrieze.

Yes, there is a quick and easy way to check what museum openings are currently being circulated on Twitter.


The very fact that we are having this discussion about hashtags is proof that technology is reshaping how people relate to the museum experience. If you want to eavesdrop on the professionals talking about what’s coming down the pipeline, check in with #musetech.

The go-to for sharing details of paintings. A lot of random stuff gets filed under #partsofpaintings alongside the occasional gem, like a sharp Chuck Close close-up or a telling Roy Lichtenstein detail. Heavily associated with the street-art star KAWS.

This one kills it on Instagram, with over 14 million appearances of the #streetart tag to date. It might be more interesting to get more granular: the most Instagramed city is London, with #streetartlondon racking up 125,000-plus uses; Paris is next, with #streetartparis scoring over 98,000; New York third, with 79,500 for #streetartnyc. Come on, New York, kick it in!

Thanks to Susi Kenna (@SusiKenna) and JiaJia Fei (@VAJIAJIA) for suggestions.

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