For the first time in years, collectors at Art Basel won’t find a booth from New York’s Team Gallery at the fair—but that doesn’t mean they won’t come across work from the gallery while they’re in Switzerland. As they scroll through Instagram, they might see a sponsored post from Team, which is advertising the sale of an artwork each day for the next week on the social-networking service.
The gallery kicked things off yesterday with a Sam McKinniss painting titled Bob and Charlotte, featuring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s characters from the 2003 film Lost in Translation, which is for sale for $15,000. The McKinniss post notes that it is the “first of seven works being offered, one-per-day, through Instagram” to the gallery’s 14,000 followers.
A $14,000 Ryan McGinley photograph, titled Jade, part of an edition of three, followed early this morning. Galleries often promote their artists’ work on social media, but Team’s inclusion of price tags and use of the platform as a sales interface is unusual.
In March, Team Gallery owner José Freire told artnet News that the gallery has found that visual promotion of their work, especially on Instagram, does lead to sales. “But that doesn’t mean that I post a picture on my Instagram account and I sell it—if I post a picture on my Instagram account and someone DMs me to buy it, they get no fucking answer from me. Because I do not sell art that way,” he said. “We’re not an add-to-cart kind of gallery.” Freire did not immediately respond when asked to clarify whether he’s changed his mind with this new approach.
That kind of shopping could well become common among art galleries in the near future. In 2017, Instagram introduced a shopping feature, which expanded to Instagram stories this week. Business on Instagram can now tag products, allowing users to click the shopping bag icon and see everything a brand has for sale. A single click on “Shop Now” will transport potential customers to companies’ websites to make purchases.
“I think if you look at Instagram you don’t need to go to [Art Basel] Miami, because after scrolling through Instagram you’ll know the same thing,” Freire told artnet News in March, noting that after 78 art fairs in 17 years, including 12 Basel outings, he had stopped meeting new potential clients. Whether a gallery’s reach really is greater on social media remains to be seen, but given the general dissatisfaction around art fairs, it doesn’t seem a stretch to think that more galleries may be testing the waters with unabashed Instagram sales pitches.
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