Every day it becomes clearer that the world is changing in unforeseeable ways as the result of digital technology. In the arts, it impacts how we make, discover and consume. And now a new study puts some hard numbers to the trends we’ve all been witnessing.
Above Image: Michael Kline gives a Live Periscope Tour of Adam Field and Forrest Lesch-Middelton’s exhibition at Penland.
American Attitudes Toward Art, a study conducted by online art marketplace Invaluable, claims it’s the first time more US consumers are seeing art on social media rather than in museums. In fact, 22.7 percent of US consumers on aggregate cite image-driven platforms as their primary method of finding new work. Only 20 percent of adults come across new art through museums, and an even smaller 15.6 percent do so through galleries.” (Artnet)
This study gives us a glimpse at what the collectors of the future might look like and where they will likely be shopping for their collection. The trend is clear: adults who previously discovered art in galleries and museums are now using digital technology as their main resource. The percentage of people exposed to art on social media is increasing as the younger generations enter the “adult” bracket and actual collecting on the platforms will increase as millennials begin to acquire disposable income.
So where does selling ceramics fit into this growing trend of experiencing and buying art online? As we all know, it’s a field with unique facets and properties, and it has managed a surprisingly successful presence on social media.
1. 3D Imaging Technology
The study does not get detailed enough to differentiate between online engagement with 2D and 3D art, the latter being where most of the ceramic realm resides and the more difficult type of art to view on a flat screen. As we move quickly into accepting virtual reality and 3D technology with open arms, it doesn’t seem to be posing a barrier. Facebook and YouTube have already made it possible to upload 360-degree movies (the footage is phenomenal) and ceramic designer Noah Riedel is conducting 360-degree presentations of ceramics using the image rotation service Arqspin. These images can be made quickly using the incredible camera on your iPhone for just $20 per month.
Give the image below a spin by grabbing and dragging it left or right. You are looking at the future standard for ceramic documentation – we’ve come a long way from projector slides.
Noah Riedel, Banana Frame, 2016
2. Sell Your Story
“According to the company’s survey, which included over 4,500 participants, 44 percent of millennials turn to Instagram and Pinterest [to discover art]. It’s a demographic that reportedly spends more than 30 hours a month on social media sites, after all.” (Artnet)
The pottery community has had a surprisingly easy transition from selling ceramics out of an end-of-the-road studio/gallery to making sales on image-focused social media sites such as Instagram. There is a simple explanation for this: stories sell products. The stories inherent to the ceramic process are a perfect way to form an emotional connection with the viewer/customer. When you follow a pot from a lump of clay, to a leather-hard mug, to a glazed finished product, you’ve witnessed something beautiful.
This story-telling marketing has worked for the last century or more, although we called it a “studio visit” in the analog years. Now, social media tools like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope, are exposing aspects of the studio visit story digitally to art collectors and galleries worldwide – and it’s working brilliantly!
This begs a fascinating question about making a living as a creative in the digital age: What is an artist’s most valuable asset — products, skills, or story?
A new social platform that ceramics has embraced with open arms is the live-streaming app Periscope. The service allows an audience to watch and interact with a host (in our case the artist in their studio or in a gallery) by typing questions which are answered verbally throughout the broadcast. Trailblazing this new social media frontier has won artists like Neil Celani a massive 21,900 followers. Other potters leading the way are Virgil Ortiz, Adam Field, and Michael Kline.
Potter Michael Kline told CFile about his success selling ceramics with Periscope, “Almost all of my sales online this winter were through a connection with folks on Periscope. About 1/4th of my sales at Cousins in Clay (show) were to Periscope users.”
Although they are quickly losing ground, museums and galleries are still being attended. According to Invaluable’s data, nearly 40 percent of all respondents reported visiting them at least once a year, while 14 percent said they went on a monthly basis. Even so, attendance across the arts is decreasing at an alarming rate.
According to the 2015 study “A Decade of Arts Engagement,” “The number of visitors to core arts events — opera, jazz, classical music, ballet, musical theater, plays, art museum and gallery visits — continued to decline, with just 33.4% of US adults attending one of those between July 2011 and July 2012. A decade earlier the figure was 39.4%…” (HyperAllergic)
Comparing the American Attitudes Toward Art” results with the “A Decade of Arts Engagement” study, we can gather that this decline in physical attendance is being made up for digitally. The time has come to take into consideration an institution’s digital attendance, like Tate Modern’s YouTube Channel which has total views in the millions and also their total reach on social media platforms.
Museums and galleries may continue to lose ground to social media, but these places are making peace offerings to the foreign new millennial generation. Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gallery One offers a free app to enhance the art viewing experience. When you hold the camera up to the artwork using their Art Lens tool it overlays information on the screen about each piece. Then, it gives you the option to share your experience on (you guessed it) social media.
How we discover, experience, buy and sell ceramics is changing, but is it for better or for worse? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Noah Riedel, Hoop Vase , 2016