The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa has been drawn into a dispute with artist Jay Isaac over an Instagram account.
Isaac, the owner of the account @nationalgalleryofcanada, posted photos of unknown, emerging, and outsider artists to raise awareness of Canada’s government subsidized cultural industry and the lack of diversity in Canadian museums.
According to the BBC, the National Gallery of Canada subsequently filed a complaint with Instagram claiming that the account was “confusing for our members, visitors and the general public, and it put the Gallery at risk of copyright infringement.” The social media company complied and took down the account.
But the artist insisted that the account was clearly linked to his personal account, and that the images posted on it were meant as a joke. “It wasn’t a matter of imitation, but the idea of mimicry and mimicry as a potentially subversive act,” Isaac told the BBC.
He added that it was his aim was to show “an alternative history” that wasn’t being shown in the Canada’s mainstream cultural institutions. “These institutions, although they are very worthwhile and serve a purpose, they don’t need to be the dominant voice,” he explained.
The painter, who is a respected artist in his own right, added that he was taken aback by Instagram’s decision to suspend his account. “I was a little bit surprised there was no dialogue,” he admitted. Far from being angry at his account’s removal, he says it proves the point he was trying to make. “I’m happy with the way this ended, it’s actually the perfect full circle,” he said. “It got shut down, so in a way it reinforces my ideas around it.”
Only days later, however, Isaac found that Instagram reactivated his account, the Ottawa Sun reported, although the artist is unsure why. “I don’t know if it’s been complaints to Instagram from a multitude of people or maybe the National Gallery has said ‘OK’ maybe this has totally backfired,” he told the Canadian daily. “I think Instagram reviewed it and said there is no copyright infringement here, we’ll let him have the account back.”
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