Will Martyr, No One Else In The World Will Do, 2016. Image courtesy of Unit London and Avant Arte
Social media has provided a huge platform not only for art admirers, collectors, students, and curators to consume art, but the way they buy it and discover it too. A new exhibition in London called Avant Arte @ Unit London, is showcasing just such art works, although offline in a gallery setting.
The works have been selected due to their popularity on social media, particularly Instagram, and for it Unit London, a gallery startup, has teamed up with Avant Arte, an online art discovery platform which has an app and an Instagram page with nearly half a million followers. International artists in the group show include Jason Seif, Lionel Smit, Henrik Uldalen, Brian Willmont, Ryan Hewett, and more.
Stephan Doitschinoff, NÓS OSSOS QUE AQUI ESTAMOS PELOS VOSSOS ESPERAMOS (WE BONES THAT HERE ARE, FOR YOURS AWAIT, 2015. Image courtesy of Unit London and Avant Arte
Unit London was founded in 2013 by young artists Jonny Burt and Joe Kennedy who, starting with a pop up, now operate a gallery in Soho. Their aim with setting up the space was to "break down the barriers of elitism" in the art industry, not only showcasing more unsung artists who might struggle to be seen, but also letting anyone buy the art, be they first-time buyers or institutions. The pair say that both seasoned and emerging collectors have become their clients.
"Unit London is centered on celebrating and broadcasting the most amazing contemporary art to the widest possible audience," explain the pair to The Creators Project in an email. "When we started the business three years ago with no initial funding or direct route into the industry, we relied on social media to build our platforms into what they are today. It is no secret that Instagram is becoming an integral and invaluable tool in the art market, and is in fact now the most popular platform for visual art."
Jake Wood-Evans, Portrait of a Professor, after Sir Henry Raeburn, 2016. Image courtesy of Unit London and Avant Arte
The exhibition is their second showcasing of Instagram art, the first was called Paintguide (another Instagram art account) and had people queuing around the block to get in. They're no doubt hoping to repeat that success by patnering with another popular Instagram art platform.
"Although there are similar 'art assistant' promo platforms on Instagram with one or two million plus followers, none of them have the kind of engagement that Avant Art boasts," notes Unit London. "Their audience is diverse and their USP is that their following is comprised of serious and loyal art collectors. Reputable galleries have recently invested into their platform to promote exhibitions, which subsequently have entirely sold out. They now charge galleries a considerable fee for one IG post. Besides the promotional element of Instagram, what is becoming increasingly key is the successful commercial aspect of IG pages like Avant Art. This is indisputably a new model for the art market—it is increasing transparency whilst also carving out a new avenue for art sales."
Lionel Smit, Divert #2 Head Fragment, 2011. Image courtesy of Unit London and Avant Arte
As well as benefiting from the reach and capabilities of social media, the show is also an opportunity for Unit London to showcase works from artists they might not have had access to, and who Avant Art do. As such it's a mutually beneficial partnership between two relative newcomers, where resources can be shared and the effectiveness of Avant Art's online presence can be harnessed in the physical world of Unit London's come one, come all gallery setting.
Jan Kalab, Utila, 2016. Image courtesy of Unit London and Avant Arte
"[Avant Art] understand that a physical space will always be necessary. Art is fundamentally a human experience and whilst the digital experience is revolutionary, it can only go so far," note Unit London. "Staging shows like this is not only a celebration of the power of social media in the art world, but also demonstrates a bridge between the digital and the physical spaces. It exemplifies our point that both spaces operate in harmony together. The large followings you see on these Instagram pages are very real ones."
Ryan Hewett, Makeba, 2016. Image courtesy of Unit London and Avant Arte
Avant Arte @ Unit London is on view from January 13th to February 2nd at Unit London, 147 Wardour Street, London W1F 8WD. To find out more about Unit London visit their website or Instagram. To find more about Avant Arte check their website and Instagram.