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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Art of the camera on the camera: the digital artist's palette, gallery and salon all rolled into one

The artist Cindy Sherman's recently made her Instagram account public, unleashing a torrent of discussion, while an exhibition at the Met raises more questions about the medium and its message

Cindy Sherman took her Instagram account public earlier this month, prompting a wave of plaudits and adulation.
Cindy Sherman took her Instagram account public earlier this month, prompting a wave of plaudits and adulation.

The history of art is littered with great conversations, think about the correspondence between Vincent van Gogh and his art dealer brother, Theo or Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner’s papers, which occupy 4.75 linear metres of storage space at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.

The venues where these conversations have taken place are also the stuff of art legend. Where would modernism be, for example, without the Les Deux Magots in Montparnasse – a haunt of James Joyce, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway – or Vienna’s Café Museum, at which Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele were guests?

Thanks to the internet, digital cameras and social media, all of this has changed and communication between artists has become as dematerialised as it is instantaneous, but does that mean it’s also immaterial?

The response to self-portraitist Cindy Sherman’s decision to make her private Instagram account public – simultaneously turning her feed into an art gallery, discussion forum and museum – would suggest not.

A post shared by cindy sherman (@_cindysherman_) on

“Cindy Sherman’s Instagram account may be the best art exhibition of 2017,” wrote Salon’s Gabriel Bell, breathlessly.

Before Sherman made her decision to switch her Instagram moniker from the private @misterfriedas_mom to @_cindysherman_ , the British artist Cornelia Parker had taken to Instagram in her capacity as the official artist of the UK’s general election, posting as electionartist2017, while the photography department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York explored the camera-phone’s potential as a platform for exchange with a new show, Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations Between Artists.

The exhibition shows the results of visual exchanges between 12 sets of artists between November and April. The participants were asked not to submit messages or captions or to share their images publicly.

As Mia Fineman, the show’s curator hoped, the results shed a light on communication in a globalised and interconnected world, but the strictures presented little more than a snapshot of the ways in which artists engage with peers and the world around them. At least I hope that’s the case.

Talking Pictures is at The Met Fifth Avenue, New York, until December 17 (www.metmuseum.org)

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