Is Instagram the New Art Market?

Cruise ship terminal
These are actually huge!

Almost Sunday morning and not too long before I head off on a voyage of the seas to distant lands. I’m actually starting to become a little excited, not so much because of the countries I will be visiting, they will be nice I am sure, but because the ship I will be sailing on – Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, also has $11m worth of art on board. So when I wake up at my usual 5am, I will be able to take a walk around a silent ship, coffee in hand, and take in the wonderful art without being crushed at mid-day. I might even throw half a dozen towels on the sun loungers, just like everyone else who wakes up at silly 'O' clock.

No doubt there will be art auctions too, my plan for these is to hand out a few cards pointing people in the direction of my works, and who knows, maybe one day my art will be sailing around the world in luxury. One can only dream.

As I said yesterday, art and technology news is aplenty this week. It’s unusual because in the art world, or at least my art world, sales in the summer are generally lower than during the fall and winter. In technology terms, the spring technology shows are over, and the next round of product releases doesn’t really start happening until September. So what’s different this year?

Generally my art sales are up after a slow spring, and the amount of technology advice I am being asked to give is also up. This leads me to believe that people are picking up some great technology bargains, what with new models coming out soon, retailers are keen to shift old stock. In the art world though, and I have mentioned this before, sales of art are suddenly on the rise.

Generally art valued at over €200,000 is doing very well at the auction houses, but I cannot think of any reason why lower priced art also seems to be doing ok. Not exactly setting the markets on fire, but it is certainly up from this time last year, and that can only mean good news for those of us who create art in the print on demand market. A market which is rapidly changing, and as I have said before, a market that is on the cusp. Also a market that will no doubt see more losers than winners over the next 18-months.


Fibre optic cable
Only 4000 miles of this cable is needed!


So, let’s get with the program and round up some of this week’s best news. Google, that behemoth of a search engine, makers of that thing I cannot quite work out, Google Glass, and a multitude of other things, has announced that Google Fiber will be heading to San Antonio, Texas; with speeds of up to 1Gbps, while the average speed in the U.S is a meagre 12Mbps by comparison.

The 1Gbps speeds are already available in Provo, Utah, Kansas City, Missouri, and Austin, Texas; but Google says that the roll out in San Antonio will be the biggest for a city yet. They also say that they will work closely with city leaders over the next several months to plan the layout of over 4,000 miles of fiber optic cables. To put that into context, it’s enough to stretch to Canada and back.

Google has plans to widen the service even further. Google Fiber has seen competition in other areas of the United States from AT&T, who also happen to have a fiber network. Comcast also has its own fiber service running at a mind blowing 2Gbps that will be launching this year, with plans to roll out a 1GB per second service in 2016 to many of its customers.

Behind the scenes, Google is also working on developing a 10GB broadband service, so if you think a 1Gbps service will blow you away, their plans to introduce 10GBps will launch you into orbit.

Meanwhile in the UK, it is rare to get anything close to 70Mbps, although a few companies have been dabbling with 300Mbps more recently, but the roll out of any substantial broadband speeds is slow, and nowhere even close to some of the U.S speeds we are seeing today. I have definitely made my mind up, I need to move to the U.S.


California Dreaming


A legal battle has broken out in Oakland, California over whether or not, construction companies should be forced to pay for public art in building projects. An alliance of firms in Oakland is now suing the city over laws that came into effect back in February, forcing them to spend between 0.5% and 1% of a projects budget on public art.

There are more than 200 such public art ordinances across the U.S and construction bosses will be monitoring the outcome of the lawsuit very closely. Artists in Oakland fear that a victory for the firms will be a defeat for culture in a city which has seen an influx of artists in recent years.

The Building Industry Association of the Bay Area (BIA), a group that represents around 300 builders, contractors, and suppliers, within the Bay Area housing sector claim that the rules violate the first amendment and the fifth amendment protection against ‘uncompensated takings’.

Back in 1978, Chicago was the first city to approve a percentage of new construction budgets to public art. That ordinance stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating municipal buildings and public spaces be devoted to original artwork on the premises.

There is no question that art attracts people to towns, but it does raise the question of, should builders and construction companies pay for art installations, or should this come out of public and taxpayer funds? It would be great to hear your views, so feel free to leave a comment.


My twice weekly commute covers over 400 miles!


London, a city I generally visit at least once per week, is the most Googled city in the world when it comes to art galleries, performing arts, and innovative design. The capitals theatre’s also generate more searches than those in any other city, according to research recently carried out by Google.

The research was carried out in partnership with London & Partners, to launch London’s Autumn Season of Culture. They found that for international searches, the Science Museum in London was ranked at number one, as the most Googled museum in the world, with The Natural History Museum coming second, and the British Museum third.

It seems that London is at least the online culture capital of the world, with more and more tourists visiting, complete with those rather stupid selfie sticks that keep poking me in the eye whenever I make a visit.

In other news from London. London’s Serpentine Galleries have revealed that they will launch a new digital commission by New York-based artist Ian Cheng in autumn 2015, the second work to be commissioned by the Serpentine as part of its digital commission program.

According to the Serpentine, Cheng’s commission will be a downloadable video game for mobile devices that will focus on the "contradictory challenges of influencing the behaviour of a group of organisms," for the first time allowing users to manipulate and participate in Cheng’s unique simulations.


Instagram, the social media platform of selfie’s, cats, and other obscurities started in 2010, allowing users to share square photographs, and 15-second videos with the world, or at least between its 300 million subscribers.

One of the most important functions of the platform is the discover function, introducing users to artists that they may like. It seems it is becoming an important platform in the arts world, and I know I should start doing something with it, it’s just that I do not know if I have any more time to take on yet another social media platform. Globally, users share around 70-million photo’s each day.

But, anyone who is not taking Instagram seriously, should sit up and take notice. In late April after actor Pierce Brosnan visited the showroom of Phillips Auction House in London, and after Brosnan had taken a selfie in front of a piece of work he admired, "Lockheed Lounge", a space-age aluminium chaise lounge by the industrial designer Marc Newson, Brosnan then added the words to his Instagram selfie, ‘let the bidding commence’, and it did.

Immediately after posting the picture to his 164,000 followers, there was a bidding frenzy within the week for the work. The final bid of £2.4m ($3.7m U.S) broke the world auction record for a design object. It was not the first time the art market had been influenced by images on Instagram. In the past few years, it has emerged as the social media platform of choice for many contemporary artists, galleries, auction houses and art collectors, who use it to promote art that they are selling and to offer a behind-the-scenes look in art studios, auction houses and art fairs. How much that actually translates into sales like the "Lockheed Lounge," however, is still up for debate.


News from the Campus Technology conference in Boston this week indicated that Makerbot showed off its 3D printers, and they talked about some new materials that will be able to be used with their printers from next year.

In 2016 we will see the release of ‘smart extruders’, which will support composite filament. The filament will be a PLA composite with bronze, maple wood, limestone, and iron. Until the new filaments are available though, your options at the moment are plastic, or plastic.

In other 3D printing news the world's first 3D-printed pill has been given the green light in the U.S. Created by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, Spritam levetiracetam is a prescription drug used to treat a variety of seizures in adults and children with epilepsy.

To make it, Aprecia used power-liquid three-dimensional printing, which was first developed for rapid prototyping at MIT in the 1980s. The company now has exclusive pharmaceutical rights to the process, with the benefit of 3D printing being that it can be used to produce a porous formulation that rapidly disintegrates with just a small sip of liquid. Aprecia calls this quick-dispersal method ZipDose, and it can be used to deliver up to 1,000mg of medication in a single dose.


Smartphone use is up
Smartphone use is on the up


Smartphones have moved ahead of laptops for the first time as the preferred device for connecting online in the UK, according to communications regulator Ofcom, suggesting the smartphone was the device of choice for 33 percent of Britons, ahead of 30 percent who preferred to use a laptop. Ofcom said this represented a "landmark moment".

Some 31% of Britons said that they had also taken a photograph of themselves in the past year, with one in ten taking at least one per week. Data from studies undertaken in 2014, suggest that Britons took 1.2bn selfies in 2013.

The smartphone was found to be more popular than the digital camera for taking and storing photos in 2014, with 60% of adults and 89% of 16-24-year-olds using their phone for those ‘Kodak’ moments.

The report also suggested that UK adults were spending nearly two hours each day using the internet on their phones. By the end of 2014, some 23.6million people were using 4G mobile, and interestingly, more than half were using 4G to shop online. The report also stated that more people were using 4G to do more banking, instant messaging, and watching video clips.

The report also found that adults watched an average of three hours and 40 minutes of television each day on traditional TV sets - down by 11 minutes on the previous year.

Meanwhile in other smartphone news, Google will issue monthly over-the-air patches for Nexus devices to protect users against major exploits such as the Stagefright flaw. Earlier this month Samsung confirmed that similar over-the-air security updates for its Android phones would occur "about once per month."


Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S


I still do not own a Tesla, and even after the latest news, I still actually would like to one day own one. Tesla issued a software update for its model ‘S’ car after two researchers found a way to subvert onboard systems.

This is the second time in as many weeks that a car manufacturer has had to react to security flaws uncovered by hackers. In the latest Tesla incident, the researchers were able to switch off the car and force it to stop. Tesla responded very quickly with a fix, addressing six security vulnerabilities. The researchers praised Tesla for the speed of reacting to the vulnerabilities, and in my book, that is a reason in itself to go out and buy one.

So that’s another week of news rounded up. I probably need to start packing some clothes for my vacation, although I have a few more blog posts planned before I take a two week break. While I am away I will be writing about the art onboard the ship, and hopefully about some of the art I get to see on port days. One thing’s for sure, it really can’t come soon enough!

Let us all know if your planning a vacation this year, and where you're heading. Especially let me know if you are sailing on Explorer of the Seas in around 14-days time! I'll see you on board!



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