By NINA SIEGAL AUG. 4, 2015
Anyone in the art market who was not already paying attention to the social media platform Instagram had to sit up and take notice in late April after the actor Pierce Brosnan visited the showroom of Phillips auction house in London. Mr. Brosnan snapped a selfie in front of a work he admired: the “Lockheed Lounge” a space-age aluminum chaise longue by the industrial designer Marc Newson. Then he added the words “let the bidding commence,” and posted it to the 164,000 followers of his Instagram feed.
And commence it did. Later that week, Phillips broke the world auction record for a design object, selling “Lockheed Lounge” for £2.4 million, or about $3.7 million.
“It’s hard to make a direct correlation between Pierce Instagramming us and the world record, but certainly it made the lounger more desirable,” Megan Newcome, director of digital strategy for Phillips and based in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It was a very exciting sale; we had phone bidders, people bidding online, and there was a lot of excitement around that piece in the auction room. Thanks, Pierce, for the shout out.”
It was not the first time the art market had been influenced by images on Instagram. In the past few years, it has emerged as the social media platform of choice for many contemporary artists, galleries, auction houses and art collectors, who use it to promote art that they are selling and to offer a behind-the-scenes look in art studios, auction houses and art fairs. How much that actually translates into sales like the “Lockheed Lounge,” however, is still up for debate.
Instagram, which started in 2010, is an online mobile app that allows users to share square, Polaroid-style images and 15-second videos, with a network of more than 300 million users worldwide. Users build up their own social networks of followers, and can follow other users, or just “like” images by users they do not follow. Most important for the art world, users are introduced to artists they might like through a “discover” function. Elizabeth Bourgeois, a company spokeswoman, said that globally, users share about 70 million photos each day via the app.
Simon de Pury, an international auctioneer who has 131,000 followers on his Instagram feed, @simondepury, said in a telephone interview: “So many people are either artists, collectors or gallery owners or photographers who are using it very actively, so it allows you to preview exhibitions happening everywhere in the world, and to see the works the minute the exhibitions open, rather than waiting to read about it in a review. That’s what makes it exciting.”