Is Instagram content 'art'?

Yasmine Bridge debates the lines between art and Instagram content.

Yasmine Bridge
10th October 2019
Image: Pixabay
Social media. In this all too familiar age that appears to seek validation at the click of a button and companionship at the swipe of a finger, it seems the conflictions and contradictions regarding “the modern way of things” are at an all-time high.

So, it’s no surprise that blurred lines lead us to hazy judgements with regards to online content and the status it holds, or indeed ceases to. Hence, if we were to name the one platform having taken the world by storm, rightly or wrongly so, Instagram would be at the tip of even your grandparents’ tongues. Typed into the search engine, as many frantically curious, concerned parents will have done, Instagram’s main purpose, in essence, is to capture and share the highlights from your life, although these are often edited and filtered to a new-found level of perfection. Ask a young person to name their favourite influencer, and you’ll most likely be adorned by the likes of reality stars, video creators and online models; essentially the most famous people you’ve never heard of. Ask them of a favourite artist though, and your list in response may lack variety. Yet credit where credit’s due, many people young and old remain fervently interested in art as a platform in itself, holding personal favourites from Picasso to Hepworth closely regarded. The question remains, however, as to whether these two “platforms” may sit harmoniously together hand in hand, and whether or not a justice is being done by branding Instagram content ‘art’.

"We must accept and open our minds to a new art form"

Undeniably, the notion of ‘art’ is an umbrella term in itself; supposed to stand as a wholly subjective, individual experience. Whether a tangible something, or a theory, you’d think it ought to count. Traditionally, we are inclined to anticipate paintings, portraits and abstract sculpture. Namely Sunflowers, Terracottas and Mona Lisas. But it could be argued that in order to move with the times, we must accept and open our minds to a new art form… content. Taking a scroll through Instagram, you will inevitably land upon something of intrigue. This could be a jealous intrigue, noting your absence in a group photo of your mates. It may be a positive curiosity, as the pixels work to draw you into viewing that clothing website, checking out that band or watching that video. You may even land upon, say, an aesthetically pleasing bit of photography, or a painting that would compliment the colour of your bedroom walls perfectly. Instant. Recent. Relevant. If your content is on the platform, you are guaranteeing yourself an audience. At least one, if not many, will see you post. Your potential ‘artwork’ at the fingertips of the public. And who’s to say the content lacks taste?

Image: Max Pixel

But can a scroll beat the stroll through a gallery? Did we spend years in school sketching and shading ourselves in vain? It could be said that this ‘instant art’ takes away from the years of hard work put in by enthusiastic artists often struggling to gain an audience, as opposed to an immediate and potentially temperamental following. When we look at content, it’s fair to say that many a post consists of bragging- showing off where you’ve been, what you’re wearing, what an amazing time you’re having. This type of content, therefore, may be viewed not as a form of art, but a boasting of lifestyle. Needless to say, with so many of the world’s famous artists gaining recognition and their much deserved attention posthumously, could we really place Kandinsky and Kardashian in the same league?
If you invest in the theory that anything goes, then surely anything that requires creativity, (painting and content alike) counts as art? Yet, would Van Gough be turning in his grave at the thought of his livelihood succumbing to the quick fix, transient unknown of the online?


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