Ask Audrey Ask Audrey

Have We Reached Peak Instagram?

“The world I want to live in"

Love it, hate it, Instagram is now an integral part of the art consumer's experience.

Text size
Text size
Category: Immersive
Add to favourites

“See It, Selfie It”

Date: 20 Jan 2018

If your Instagram account is anything like mine, it’s flooded with shots of friends, and friends-of-friends, enjoying the summer art blockbusters around Sydney.

This morning I spotted theatre director Kate Gaul in my feed posing in front of Katharina Grosse’s enormous installation at Carriageworks, as part of Sydney Festival (photo by @tommyonehand).

Yesterday, I watched a video of actor and cabaret artist Sarah Ward (@sarahawarding) performing a smiling 360 within Grosse’s folds of richly-painted fabric with the comment: “The world I want to live in.”

Ward has also Instagrammed the twinkling lights of the Pipilotti Rist blockbuster Sip My Ocean installed at the Museum of Contemporary Art (“my favourite moving visual artist” #feministartist).

Across town, Audrey reviewer Harriet Cunningham took selfies during Rembrandt Live, a performance inside the Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

“At the gig, we were encouraged to take pics, although with gallery workers on had to (very discreetly) keep the art safe,” she says, adding the demographic was 50+ but still keen to capture the moment. “It was a really interesting dynamic: see it, selfie it. It really underlined how intimate the experience was.”

Sydney’s Top Five Insta-Art Experiences

Sip My Ocean (MCA)

Sometimes you can hardly move for people taking snaps of the art or, more often, themselves with the art. But there are still plenty of moments where viewers are so captivated by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist’s video works they put their phones down.

I particularly loved the room with the beds. It was almost a selfie-free zone.

(Instagram at #PipilottiRist or search Museum of Contemporary Art for photos without hashtags)

The Horse Trotted Another Couple of Metres, Then it Stopped (Carriageworks)

Massive, immersive and overwhelming, German artist Katharina Grosse’s installation is a work of art to get right inside. Beware of bumpy folds on the floor. I lost count of the people who tripped while looking around through their phones rather than at what was under their feet.

(Instagram at #KatharinaGrosse or #sydfest)

Jurassic Plastic (Sydney Town Hall)

This one is selfie challenge. To get the full effect of the intricate patterns of toys laid out by Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji, you either have to get very close to the floor or you need to bring a ladder. (Don’t bring a ladder.) Most viewers are on the floor getting extreme close ups of the millions of plastic toys.

(Instagram at #jurassicplastic or #sydfest)

Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age (Art Gallery of NSW)

Not so many photos of this one on Instagram. The older demographic leans toward Facebook. The exhibition offers viewers a chance to take a selfie inside a golden frame so they come out looking like a Dutch Master portrait. No flash allowed.

(Instagram #rembrandtagnsw)

Sydney Festival Village (Hyde Park North)

Balmy evenings, lots of colour and movement. This is selfie heaven. You can’t go past the Glitterbox and the Karaoke Carousel. Sydney Festival is building an online archive of pics by punters here.

(Instagram #sydfest or follow @sydney_festival for a mix of professional photos and artist takeovers)

With a few more weeks of summer holidays have we reached peak instagram in the arts?

The answer is a resounding no.

Gill Nichol, director of audience engagement at the MCA, says word of mouth on Pipilotti Rist’s exhibition is growing every day. “People are coming to the exhibition as they’ve seen it shared on their friends and followers Instagram accounts; that’s the initial attraction to the show but the reality is that the average viewing time spent in the exhibition is 90 minutes. Visitors are staying, finding themselves fully immersed within the joyous and celebratory work of Pipilotti, as well as getting their perfect Insta shot.”

Nichol says the exhibition is the MCA’s most Instragrammed exhibition to date – #pipilottirist has a 4.1 million reach as of 16 Jan 2018 – bringing new audiences into the gallery.

“We’ve seen ‘fashionistas’ coming in immaculately dressed, showing us a screenshot of the exhibition they want to see, and when they leave the exhibition an hour later telling us how much they were deeply moved by the artist’s work.

“We’re extremely pleased to see so many people interacting with the art however it’s all a balancing act. Given the social media frenzy, we’ve decided to host a phone free “unplugged” evening on Tuesday 23 January to make sure people can have alternative experiences of this incredible exhibition.”

Lisa Havilah, artistic director at Carriageworks where Katharina Grosse’s exhibition will be on until April 8, says she loves seeing people taking photos.

“I think there is no greater endorsement than a genuine audience member sharing an experience and saying it was great,” she says.

Havilah says Grosse’s work is particularly special because you can get inside it. “It’s a completely different experience from standing outside of a work or looking at the work on a wall or in the context of a gallery space. The work is the space, that makes it very shareable in terms of an experience, because it is a shared experience.”

Social media lovers at Carriageworks can touch the work, lie down in it, get above it and take photos during the day or at night. “There are no rules as long as the work is respected and protected,” Havilah says. “Please share, please be part of it and be in it.”

Havilah has welcomed other large-scale art installations to Carriageworks including Zhang Huan: Sydney Buddha by renowned Chinese artist Zhang Huan, featuring two 5-metre tall sculptures created from 20 tonnes of ash and aluminium and Song Dong’s Waste Not, consisting of thousands of pieces of household items from his mother’s home.

Does Havilah deliberately choose exhibitions that might be “instagrammable”?

“No,” she says, laughing. “It’s more thinking about how an artist can work with the Carriageworks space because it’s very demanding in terms of its scale, and how an artist needs to respond to that space.”

Sydney Festival is now heading into its third week. On Instagram the hashtag #sydfest has a reach of 13,323,727 with no sign of slowing down.

Architect and photographer Demas Rusli (@demasrusli) has scored the most “liked” photo of #sydfest so far with an image of the inside of Enter the Void, a light installation in the Village Sideshow, Hyde Park. Rusli has over 94k followers on Instagram.

One sleeper hit on Instagram is #FourThousandFish, an experience where visitors gather water from Barangaroo Reserve to pour into a fish mould, which is then frozen and later, all the frozen fish are symbolically released into the water to celebrate the fisherwoman Barangaroo.

“With Four Thousand Fish, we’ve also seen people using their posts as an opportunity to not only share great imagery, but to also share the stories they’ve learned at the installation, which adds some depth to their posts,” says Tina Walsberger, Head of Marketing and Customer Services at Sydney Festival. “We’re also seeing a lot more engagement with Instagram Stories this year – both from the public and our artists and partners.”

The Plastic Age might be shorter than we imagine, says artist Hiroshi Fuji
Add to favourites
ArchivedSydney Town Hall 6 - 28 Jan 2018

The Plastic Age might be shorter than we imagine, says artist Hiroshi Fuji

Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji wants his audience to face the plastics problem but have fun.

10 Things To Blow Your Mind at Carriageworks in 2018
Add to favourites
SeasonCarriageworks, Eveleigh 1 Jan - 31 Dec 2018

10 Things To Blow Your Mind at Carriageworks in 2018

Colossal works by artists Ryoji Ikeda, Katharina Grosse and Nick Cave are poised to re-wire your worldview.

Unruly painting in three dimensions
Add to favourites
InstallationCarriageworks, Eveleigh 6 Jan - 8 Apr 2018

Unruly painting in three dimensions

Lauren Caroll Harris experiences the immersive, sensorially overwhelming new installation by German artist Katharina Grosse at Carriageworks.

See More

More to see

View All
A View from the Bridge
Add to favourites
ArchivedGlen St Theatre, Belrose 30 Jan - 4 Feb 2018

A View from the Bridge

The Old Fitz produces a candidate for Best Show of the Year.

Add to favourites
ArchivedBlood Moon Theatre, Kings Cross 30 Jan - 10 Feb 2018


Playwright Dennis Kelly's in-yer-face play has brother and sister trying to make sense of a violently dysfunctional childhood.

Limbo Unhinged
Add to favourites
ArchivedThe Studio, Sydney Opera House 4 Jan - 3 Mar 2018

Limbo Unhinged

Coney Island femme fatale Heather Holliday stars in a new adults-only showcase from Strut & Fret.

Add to favourites
ArchivedBelvoir, Surry Hills 24 Jan - 11 Feb 2018


Daniel Keene's monologue gives voice to the fallen and dispossessed.