December 17, 2018

Hey, Alexa: Are Instagram traps art?

If you have an Instagram account, you’ll understand the phenomenon I’m talking about — a group of girls jumping in a ball pit in a room of multi-colored walls. Groups taking pictures in a pool of sprinkles or mirror selfies in a hallway of endless colored mirrors. They have a surplus of photos in various themed rooms with trippy backgrounds and random props to pose with.

This is a new wave of “Instagram traps” and pop-up experiences have been popping up all over the world. Some popular examples are Refinery29’s 29Rooms pop-up experience that recently came to Chicago this summer, the Museum of Ice Cream and the Rosé Mansion. These museums/factories/pop-up rooms are designed to attract people who want a purely photographable experience. They are usually only around for a limited time in old warehouses or factories and have themed rooms with interactive art pieces in them. These pop-up exhibitions usually cost around $40.

This trend seems harmless to me. I mean, who cares if people want to spend their money to walk around a bunch of brightly lit and rainbow colored rooms and take pictures.

But these new Instagram pop-ups are changing the way younger generations interact with art. More and more, people want to be immersed or directly involved in the art they are viewing. This idea isn’t entirely new, as installation or immersion art has been a consistent theme for quite some time in modern art. Certain art exhibitions that are inherently photographable have been huge attractions for art museums. Introducing Instagram friendly art pieces and exhibits has boosted membership numbers and new audiences to well known art museums around the world in recent years.

This has also caused many museums to rethink their photography policies. Many art museums like the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam do not allow photography, but because of these recent pop-ups and Instagram traps, many museums are loosening their photography policies to attract more visitors.

I love art museums and I make them a top destination whenever I travel to a new place. Modern art is particularly fascinating to me because you watch it change with the times. To me, this new movement is just another influence on modern art.

But I have some distinctions within this realm of interactive art on what I consider modern art and just a ploy to entice young Instagrammers to spend obscene amounts of money for that perfect gram. These pop-up “experiences” are not art. They are barely an experience. It is a fun photoshoot location for anyone willing to spend 40 plus dollars to take an endless amount of photos that will most likely leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled. I doubt anyone leaves these pop-ups with anything more than a few good pictures and sore smiles.

Even though I don’t consider places like these art, if someone enjoys their time at these museums and has a great experience, I don’t see a reason to hate on them.

When it comes to art museums pushing for more interactive and Instagram friendly art pieces, I’m all for it. If art museums do not adapt to the times, they will slowly lose their visitor traffic and lose funding. I don’t want to see art museums suffer because of the traditional mindset that art should be appreciated in the moment rather than photographed. But to me, part of the beauty of art is getting to share what speaks to you with other people.

Whether you appreciate art for its beauty, an emotion is sparks within you or simply the aesthetics, you are still appreciating the artist’s work.

Whether people visit an art museum for a good Insta pic or to appreciate the history and artisanship of the exhibits, people are still coming. To me, getting people to come to art museums by enticing them with Instagram opportunities is perfectly fine if it means they will receive more money to keep their doors open and keep sharing art with the world.

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