Social Media and the Contemporary Art Market

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Università della Svizzera Italiana Facoltà di Scienze della comunicazione Lugano

Social Media and Contemporary Art Market
Tesi di Master di Monica Lombardi 05-984-158

Relatore: Prof. Paolo Paolini Anno Accademico: 2008/2009 Data di consegna: 09/2009


Introduction 1. Things you should know about social media and contemporary art market, but maybe don’t. 2. Qualitative research: Is the use of social media a new way for increasing, promoting and buying and selling contemporary art? 2.1 Interviews Report 2.2 Research findings 3. Case studies 3.1 Saatchi Online Gallery 3.2 Independent Collectors 3.3 Art Review 3.4 Contemporary Art Society 3.5 Global Art Collectors Conclusions Bibliography Appendix



10 10 57 67 67 75 80 82 85 93 97 101

The fields of social media and social networking are far from new. In fact, the Internet itself started simply as a way to connect individuals and share knowledge and ideas. The Internet has brought about many changes in the media industry and is affected its way of creating and spreading contents. The new means of communication allow people to easily get and exchange a larger spectrum of information and to speed up the communication. Social media are considered as a shift in the way people discover, read and share news and information and represent the so called democratization of information, which transforms people from active to passive users. The new communication platforms have had a strong influence on the human habits in general and more and more activities are now carried on in front of a computer, a PDA or a “smartphone”, especially those concerning interpersonal communication like PR. There is no doubt that the way of promoting an event as well as getting in touch with people is totally change since the advent of social media. Until recently, the art market was the result of numerous interactions among different elements. This situation led to a market in which some of the most influential players – the most important artists, Museum curators, art critics, art biennial and art fairs promoters and, especially the most power gallery owners – had the capacity to dictate the rules of the whole art world. Nowadays the technological shift seems to have slightly changed. The following research aims at sounding the contemporary art market actors out about the transformations brought by the net on the art system and its market. The first chapter gives and overview of the social media phenomenon explaining what they are and what they are used for. It also provides a short description of the contemporary art market analysing its hybrid nature and recurring fluctuations and its main actors’ behaviour. From the 60’s – when it became international – until now, the art market has gone through crisis and periods of enthusiasm. While in the past contemporary art mainly attracted specialized people, today its audience is more heterogeneous and ever growing. Not only the audience has change during the years, even contests and channels where exchanges and relationships among gallery owners,


artists, museums and collectors take place also seem be subject to continuous transformation. The second chapter starts from the research question (Is the use of social media a new way for increasing, promoting and selling contemporary art?), which is the methodological point of departure of my inquiry about the potential influence of social media on contemporary art market. The research is based on a qualitative approach, which has a cognitive purpose and follows a flexible and not standardized scheme of questioning. The sample of interviewees consists of thirty-three people, who are representative of the five main categories of contemporary art (collectors, artists, gallery owners,...
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