Art-centric Apps Meet the New Art Audience in Full Embrace

15 Art instagram

Grab your hashtags and your paddles. Today, every second counts as #fineart artists, galleries, museums, collectors, and entrepreneurs connect socially and for business in the fast-paced art marketplace. Instagram and a host of art-centric apps are revolutionizing and democratizing the world of art.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that eighty-one percent recipients of National Endowment of the Arts grants said the Internet and other technologies are “very important for promoting the arts.” Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also emphasized their importance, telling CNBC that, “Social media and art-related apps have allowed the New York museum to expand the reach of its art in the world.”

Sreenivasan, whose goal is to expand access to the Met’s collection, said, “It’s common to look at the comments on the posts, see people tagging their friends and setting up outings to the Met to see the art in person.” For organizations, having a large presence on digital media can also drive sales and museum visits. And Dave Krugman, a social media consultant and social editor at the BBDO ad agency who has 173,000 followers on his own Instagram account, said social media users can “publish to their own audiences and be their own editors and be their own storytellers.”

In the world of social media, both according to the 2015 Online Art Trade Report by Hiscox, the London-based fine-art insurers, and as reported by Bloomberg News, “Facebook and Instagram are considered the two most important social media channels in the art world.” A recent survey of art collectors on Instagram found that 51.5 percent of them had purchased works from artists they discovered there, with an average of five purchased works by artists originally found on the app.

As CNBC reported last week, “Tech start-ups are combining data and social media with artistic vision to help expand art appreciation—as well as find lucrative buyers and potential investors.”

  • Aura, which was featured at this year’s Association of Art Museum Directors meeting, is an app that “uses ‘big data’ to help art lovers keep track of all the works and exhibits they’ve seen, and helps them share what they love on social media.”
  • The app Artsy aims to make art accessible. “It works as an online database of more than 300,000 works in galleries and museums as well as The Art Genome Project, a system that logs similar qualities between artists and artworks.” The objective is to help people find art they love and want to buy.
  • Paddle8, an online auction house and app recently profiled in the New York Times, is among many betting that there’s a lot of money to be made where art and tech meet in the cloud.

Art fairs are also seeing a benefit, as buyers are increasingly taking advantage of online previews to get a jump on negotiating for art pieces they want rather than waiting to browse onsite at the fair. For example, at this month’s Art Basel, more than 500 inquiries were made beforehand via Artsy. This kind of activity can also increase the popularity of a piece or an artist, making it easier to assess the potential for higher sales and how the market is trending. Aura is a tool for just that purpose. And the stakes can be enormous these days—as evinced by the fact that last month, auction house Christie’s had its first $1 billion week.

But Instagram and the others are also a boon for more average investors and art lovers. The Artsy survey about how art collectors use Instagram found:

  • Of collectors surveyed, 87 percent checked Instagram more than twice a day, and 55 percent opened the app five or more times a day.
  • Collectors rely on Instagram as a tool for discovering and researching art trends.
  • Instagram has a clear impact as a discovery tool. Around 61 percent of collectors consistently look at an artist’s hashtag before buying—and 42% do so often.
  • As reported above, 51.5 percent of surveyed collectors had purchased work from artists they originally discovered through Instagram.
  • A large majority of collectors—73 percent—believe that Instagram makes the art market more transparent, with many citing that as its key impact.

The Artsy report concluded:

“Instagram is best viewed as a marketing tool as opposed to a sales tool. It is great for finding out about an artist’s most recent body of work, or learning of a gallery’s latest exhibition, or getting behind the scenes takes on the inner workings of the art world.”

Going forward, as the art business broadens its capabilities and reach online, key questions will be: How much control will artists have over sales of their work and cultivation of their audience? Who will the major power brokers be and how will they ensure audience loyalty? And, what are the risks and pitfalls to everyone involved as art is made more digitally accessible and technology makes it harder to protect?

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Can a Robot Win the Newbery?

15 Robot Newbery

I know we’re just getting adjusted to social media, big data and predictive modeling, but it’s robots I think that (who?) we need to watch out for. Like it or not, the movie “Her,” which was not a personal favorite, did pose the question of just how wily those robots can be in making us think we could have a meaningful relationship. But as science fiction has often warned, they don’t care and might well leave us in the end. In fact, it looks downright scary, and many are predicting vast changes in our work and lives going forward.

Robots started out alright, just offering to vacuum our houses, clean the pool, scoop the litter, and turn on lights to deter burglars. But now they’ve gotten so personal – telling us when to exercise, if we’ve had too much chocolate, and insisting there’s one right way to cook broccoli.

Friends have said, “Let them do the rote tasks, help keep us healthy, crunch data to ensure we only hear about the products we want.” A recent email thread even suggested we might eventually do away with jobs in sales, marketing, and those held by overpaid CEOs – and advance to a time where we can focus on technology, science, art and creative fields that “need the human touch.”

What? Marketing not creative??!! Well, we’ll save that for another time…. But, in fact the question we increasingly face in light of developments in AI, is, what is uniquely human and what is meaningful in our business and personal interactions – and what can robots really be taught to do?

Right now, we’re witnessing the rise of robot journalism and even the beginnings of robots doing art. In March, Associated Press announced robots will be covering college sports, the Los Angeles Times is using robots to cover some news, and others are finding robots perfectly suited for disaster coverage. The company Narrative Science has developed a program to facilitate all this and which takes statistics and data from sports, finance and other areas and turns it into articles. In fact, the founders have been predicting it won’t be long before a robot wins the Pulitzer. Bryan Clark, gave an excellent overview of robots covering news on the tech site, MakeUseOf, entitled, Meet the Robot Who’s Trying to Take My Job.

Robotic art’s not quite so far along, but experiments are well underway – and some that are doing art might surprise you. iCub, one of the most advanced humanoids can dance and make music, and learns by interacting with the world the way a toddler would. Paul-IX, according to the Huffington Post, is “an automated sketch-bot who can outline a still life better than your high school art teacher,” and The Painting Fool is a robot that/whose work has been exhibited in galleries.

So how far are we, and will AI go in making robots to replicate and even improve on the things we do? Things are changing fast, and we don’t know what will be possible, but perhaps the lesson for all of us in art and in marketing is to think about our human connections and, possibly, not be so quick to want to automate and abbreviate everything we do.

But we should realize we’ve always had predictive systems in place to project successful outcomes. Bryan Clark sums it up saying, “the robot is more than capable of telling us who won as well as identifying key facts, but “they aren’t able to recognize the subtle nuances that really tell the story. The bad jump on a fly ball that led to a double, the bunt single that a replay showed to be a foul ball – these are all details that a human beat reporter relies on to deliver a compelling story. These nuances are why sports fans watch games, but they’re largely qualitative and beyond the scope of modern machine learning.”

Ken Goldberg, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations at the University of California, Berkeley, where he directs a lab on automation sciences, concurs in a recent article for Nautilus, “Robots Can’t Dance.” Goldberg says working with robots has taught him “to have a huge appreciation for the nuances of human behavior and the inconsistencies of humans.” It’s the “ability to have an emotional response, to be compelling, to be able to pick up subtle emotional signals, these are all the things that we haven’t made any progress on with robots.”

Will he and others do so going forward? We don’t know, but for now, it’s the ability to use all those skills in to create nuanced, multifaceted stories, whether in writing, art, or in marketing, that will as it always has been able to — touch others in a meaningful way.

And, if that doesn’t work – I’m for waiting for a good rainy day and pushing those smug robots right outside to rust!

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