Comparative Research – Ben Quilty and the use of Social Media as an artist

In my personal research, I have come across the works of Australian artist Ben Quilty. I am fascinated by his strong political ideas and his thick impasto brushstrokes.

Ben Quilty, Private Philip Butler 7ARU no. 2, 2014, oil on linen

Ben Quilty began his arts career at the Sydney College of the Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Visual Arts specialising in painting in 1994. He then went on to further study visual communications, design and women’s studies at Western Sydney University.

Quilty has won several prizes for portraiture, including the Archibald Prize (2011) and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (2009.) In late 2011, he spent time with the Australian Defense Force as their official war artist.

It is clear that Quilty’s work is affected by this time – he often paints people who have been changed by military and political conflicts. However, the strongly emotive and often disturbing nature of his subject matter has not deterred the arts community both in Australia and around the world from supporting him and his work – online and off he maintains a presence as a prominent Australian artist.

His Facebook page has over 45,000 likes, with posts typically garnering a few thousand reactions and several hundred comments. On Instagram his platform is similarly sized – 51,500 followers and 3-5 thousand interactions per post. The size of Quilty’s following allows him to promote himself and show new work to a large population of interested people.

Ben Quilty on Instagram

Quilty still exhibits traditionally, unlike artists who work exclusively in a digital space such as Molly Soda. However, it is clear that his strong online presence is a factor in drawing in demographics that are not satisfied with the traditional art world, especially young people.

The statistics are clear – the majority of Instagram’s users are young (under 34), and active on the platform (1, 2, 3.) Comparatively, people going to see art in museums and galleries are often older and wealthier. A VUW article on young people’s perception of gallery accessibility states that museums and galleries “maintain the illusion of democratic access, while in fact catering mainly to the interests of particular social groups and unintentionally excluding others.” As such, the internet has become a place where young people in the arts community share their creations and opinions as often as – if not more than – they would exhibit or visit in a gallery space.

In my plan to promote Nathan’s work, the internet features heavily. As my research demonstrates, digital arts spaces are important to effectively reach the target audience of young people – Quilty has demonstrated great success here on both Facebook and Instagram. I will be using Quilty’s marketing techniques as a guideline on how to promote art well within the digital space.

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