How social media is changing the way we experience art


Sixty years ago, world-renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, best known for covering famous buildings around the world, considered enveloping the monumental Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Today, the 49.5-meter-high monument has been successfully covered with 25,000 square meters of silver cloth. The best part? Thanks to social media, everyone in the world has the opportunity to enjoy the eye-catching installation. From a 24/7 Livestream to the Snapchat AR experience, there’s no need to fly to Paris.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe. The Coffs Harbor Regional Gallery is celebrating its reopening after the lockdown with a new Tik Tok series. Already tackling the massive million views worldwide, the gallery took to social media to showcase their collection to a new, younger audience.

Whether it’s influencing creation, curation, and perception, there’s no denying that social media is changing the way we experience art. It is an effective tool for generating enthusiasm and keeping audiences engaged. But does it stand in the way of a true appreciation of art?


Christo has always wanted to democratize art. He believed that it should be made available to everyone. Following this conviction, Snapchat joined forces with Sotheby’s to launch a global Lens portal, The last Christo: original works for the Arc de Triomphe. ‘

The launch of the Lens coincided with the physical reveal of L’Arc de Triomphe by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped in Paris on September 16. By overlaying Snapchat’s augmented reality (AR) on Christo’s original artwork, Snap’s chatters were transported to Place Charles de Gaulle via their smartphone.

The addition of this digital experience allowed Christo’s vision to reach an audience size unimaginable 60 years ago. In the digital world, commissioned works of art no longer have to play the role of victim of a place or of a brief existence. The public can engage anywhere and anytime.

The The Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped appearing everywhere in social feeds increases its ubiquity. Intended only to be temporary, after 16 days of installation, the installation will have disappeared from the psychic space.

In the digital space, however, it will continue to flow and inspire. Thanks to social networks, a concept built 60 years ago will be lived by an eternal audience.

Read: Celebrating creativity on social media during a pandemic


Spurred on by containment closures, social media has also shaped the modern experience of visiting museums and galleries.

Traditionally, taking photos while visiting a gallery would have been frowned upon due to copyright issues. However, nowadays selfies with your favorite artwork are encouraged. In fact, if the content you put out on social media is good enough, you might even be offered a partnership!

Take 25-year-old art historian and TikTok sensation Mary McGillivray. Attract millions of views worldwide through its social media channel @_theiconoclass, McGillivray has partnered with the Coffs Harbor Regional Gallery. Presenting Still Sundays, a series of ten one-minute videos, McGillivray unboxes still life art in the gallery’s current exhibition.

Mary McGillivray on Still Sundays Ep 4 Jacob Canet-Gibson. Image provided.

A recent episode exploring the work of Jacob Canet-Gibson seven eight two received 875K (and climbing) views on his own.

“In the gallery, you may have walked past this seemingly simple piece of work, but it’s the one that has generated a huge response online,” said gallery curator Chloe Waters.

“Whether you like the artwork or not, it elicited a reaction and opened a dialogue, and that’s what still life and art do.”

McGillivray said the online space gives Still works of art two lives – one in the gallery and a second in the larger online world.

Platforms like TikTok have allowed art lovers to breathe new life into the appreciation of art. Visitors now share the creative scene. This means that, like McGillivray, you can now turn the simple act of experiencing art into your own work of art!


New metrics provided by social media make it difficult to know what “good” art is. If an Instagram post of your artwork has multiple likes and reparts, does that make it a masterpiece? And if your work is not viral, does that make it unsuccessful?

In 2019, the most talked about artwork was a concept art piece that saw a banana taped to a wall. The play, titled Actor by artist Maurizio Cattelan, instantly went viral on social media. Within minutes of its launch at Art Basel Miami Beach, memes of the artwork spread across the internet like wildfire.

In cases like Cattelan’s, it’s evident that social media has completely transformed the way we amplify art. While many memes associated with Cattelan’s work poked fun at the art world, they got everyone’s attention.

The downside to viral social media trends is that they open up opportunities for money-driven stunts. Taint the “art experience” with glaring aspects of consumerism.

In other ways, social media helps develop a dynamic appreciation of art. In the case of TikToker McGillivray, a whole new generation has been introduced to the art world. McGillivray’s love for art has helped others to truly engage in works of art they may never have known before.

For Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the goal of their work has always been to create new ways of seeing the familiar. Seeing an augmented reality rendition of the Arc de Triomphe ending in Paris – from the comfort of your couch in Australia – does it with enthusiasm.

While it might not have been as the artist intended, you can’t help but truly appreciate the art.

Giselle Bueti is the Content Growth Editor at ArtsHub. She has written for publications such as The Advertiser, The Adelaide Review, RIP IT UP, BMA Magazine and Yewth Mag. Previously, Giselle worked as an art writer for The AU Review and has a background in higher education, creating digital content for leading universities across Australia. She is based in Melbourne, Victoria.


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