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Artists Draw on Facebook to Connect or Sell Their Work

Artists Draw on Facebook to Connect or Sell Their Work

Established collage artist Michael Anderson with his work on display at the Claire Oliver Gallery in Manhattan, where he currently has a solo show. (Photo By Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

USA Today

March 21, 2011

‘On and off Facebook all day’

“I think there’s something about this age, our midlife, when people start to appreciate the friends they had back then,” Levine says. “I’m on and off Facebook all day — it’s terrible.” She also curates a professional page, where she promotes shows and sells her now-vintage rock photo prints, but she keeps a tight leash on who sees her personal page.

Others are more open to the masses. Collage artist Michael Anderson, whose studio is in Harlem, N.Y., has more than 2,800 Facebook friends. He says social media have been great for networking with other artists, but he’s concerned that the whole concept of “artist” is getting watered down.

“The arts community is definitely very expanded because of sites like Facebook. There are so many more artists today than there ever were. There is so much more crap out there, too.”

He doesn’t believe it’s the place to sell. “I don’t feel that the people who are my real collectors are really looking for my work on Facebook.”

Museums are catching on, though, says Tyler Greene, a Washington art blogger. While some contemporary museums such as The Getty, in Malibu, Calif., and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art “get” the importance of social media, many others aren’t there yet. “The days of putting out a press release in the local paper to share what they’re doing in the community are long gone,” he says.

Much of the Phillips Collection in Washington is online, and the museum is on Twitter. “We want people to visit. But when they can’t, our goal is to meet people where they live,” says Ann Greer, director of communications and marketing.


H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY Staff Artist Victor Ekpuk, in his Washington, D.C. studio, uses Facebook to connect to fans and fellow artists around the world.

A recent National Endowment for the Arts study showed that more than half of Americans participate in the arts via electronic media, says Sunil Iyengar, NEA director of research and analysis. Last fall, NEA published a report based on a 2008 survey of more than 18,000 adults. Last month, it released additional research showing that people aren’t just pleasure-viewing art online. They’re also using it for educational enrichment and creating art, Iyengar says.

Sheila Pepe, 51, an installation artist and a professor in the School of Art and Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., says she finds the cult of personality in the Facebook art world fascinating, and notes that some artists and art critics have so many “friends” that they have to reject new requests because they’ve hit the 5,000-friend limit.

Seattle art blogger and painter Joey Veltkamp believes virtual-world popularity comes down to how successful a self-promoter you are. "Social media lets you say, ‘Hey look at me,’ " he says. If you’re good at that, you become a Facebook celeb, which he says annoys those who don’t have that skill set. Still, he doesn’t think anybody’s ever going to reach stardom in the art world by being popular on Facebook.

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