Exploring the effects of social media on art and culture, one selfie at a time

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Art imitates life, life imitates art -- as social media becomes more ubiquitous than ever, we're beginning to see how the power of the virtual lens shapes the way we experience culture. A study by Kelton Global goes as far as saying the definition of culture is changing and broadening so rapidly it might hold little significance in the future

"For today's audiences, the definition of culture has democratized, nearly to the point of extinction. It's no longer about high versus low or culture versus entertainment; it's about relevance or irrelevance," reported the same market research.

Consider Maurizio Cattelan's "America" (2016), a fully functioning, 14-karat gold toilet; Doug Aitken's "Mirage" (2017), a site-specific sculpture of a suburban ranch house, entirely clad in mirrors, in the desert; Studio Swine's "New Spring" (2017), an architectural fountain emitting misty, scented bubbles; Es Devlin's Room 2022 (2017), an immersive installation involving a maze of mirrors. If you didn't travel to New York, the Palm Desert, Milan, or Miami to see these works in person, there's a good chance you caught them on social media, as viral cultural moments have become a postmodern reality for a generation of armchair art viewers.

The Kusama effect

At Zwirner Gallery, in New York (the world's most Instagrammed city of 2017), crowds wait patiently upwards of three hours for a viewing of Yayoi Kusama's "Festival of Life," an exhibition of sculptures, paintings, and two of her highly immersive, kaleidoscopic "Infinity Mirror Room" environments. While Kusama's obsessive, intricate works have been celebrated for decades, at age 88, she has received unprecedented international acclaim in the third act of her career.

"Kusama's work has always had a strong presence on social media, which has introduced a new demographic to her work," said Hanna Schouwink, senior partner at Zwirner Gallery. "We've always been an artist-centric gallery, and we want to encourage as many people as possible to see work by the artists and estates we represent."

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