Why Art Needs Community - and Community Needs Art.

May 4, 2023
egle trovato
Keith Haring at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, 1982. Photo: Allan Tannenbaum/Polaris
Keith Haring at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, 1982. Photo: Allan Tannenbaum/Polaris

Ideas and art have always spread through communities. 

Art has always been created in and around communities, whether it's a tribe sharing stories around a fire or a group of artists working together in a studio. Communities have always needed art as a way to communicate relevant messages and connecting with each other. Social networks in art has played a significant role in shaping the art world as we know it today.

Throughout history, communities have supported and nurtured artists. In ancient times, artists were often commissioned by wealthy patrons or  institutions to create works of art that would inspire and educate the community. Until today, where artists forming collectives and communities to curators and gallerists using their networks to discover and promote new artists. 

Steve Schapiro Warhol and Sedgwick Entourage, NYC, 1965
Steve Schapiro Warhol and Sedgwick Entourage, NYC, 1965

How social networks influence the art world.

The connection between art, fame, and social networks has been the subject of much discussion and debate. Paul Ingram and Mitali Banerjee, two researchers at Columbia Business School, have proposed a theory called "the social network theory of creativity" that suggests that an artist's success is influenced not just by their own talent and hard work, but also by the social networks in which they are embedded. In other words, an artist's connections to other artists, collectors, curators, and critics can play a significant role in their success. This theory is supported by the fact that many famous artists, such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, were able to leverage their social networks to gain exposure and support for their work. Warhol, for example, created a community of artists, writers, and musicians known as the Factory, which became a hub of creativity and experimentation in the 1960s and 70s. Basquiat, meanwhile, was discovered by Warhol himself and was able to gain significant exposure through his association with the Factory.

This theory posits that the more diverse artist's social network can influence their access to resources, information, and opportunities, as well as their ability to learn from and collaborate with other artists. For example, an artist who is connected to a well-respected curator may have an easier time getting their work exhibited in prestigious galleries or museums. Similarly, an art lover who is friend with an artist is more encouraged and inspired to stay involved in the art scene.

"Artist Network Diagram" from Inventing Abstraction
"Artist Network Diagram" from Inventing Abstraction

Traditional social networks and the art world: benefits and pitfalls 

In the art world, this theory has been applied in various ways, especially on a digital level. The rise of social media has also transformed the way that artists build and leverage their social networks. Platforms such as Instagram have become powerful tools for artists to showcase their work, connect with other artists and curators, and reach wider audiences. However, the influence of social networks on an artist's success has also raised questions about the role of meritocracy in the art world. Some critics argue that the emphasis on social networks and connections can lead to a system where talent takes a back seat to popularity and marketability.

Beyond popularity: how we can leverage the power of community?

We’re building mae, a new kind of social network dedicated to contemporary art that allows everyone to stay plugged in the art scene. By creating a level playing field where all artists have an equal chance to be seen and appreciated, where everyone's voice and opinions are valued and heard we aim to empower individuals from all backgrounds to make art part of their daily life.

Here are a few things we’re doing:

Removing the focus on popularity: currently, many social media algorithms prioritize popular artists and artwork, making it difficult for emerging artists to gain exposure. We would remove the emphasis on popularity and instead focus on the relevance of the artist for the viewer and the true opinions of the community 

Promoting active engagement: Mae also promote engagement among its users, empowering everyone to contemplate a work of art with a ‘contemplation hint’ provided by the artist. We also make space for discussion for any themes related to the art in the matter.

Encouraging in real life experience: We believe that IRL art experience and meetings are irreplaceable that’s why the mae app is just a step before to go enjoy art in its natural habitat. A great thing about IRL exhibitions—especially for someone who spends most of his time alone at a computer, typing—is that they’re social spaces, collective séances, campfires where anyone can gather.

Join the conversation. Join the community. Join the movement.


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