Art on TikTok in 2021: is it too late to become an early adaptor?

How many doors could this SM platform open to the art world? And is it too late to jump on board to capitalize on the attention of massively engaged audience of millennials and generation Z? Lets find out together.

Social media has played an important role in the accelerated digitalization since the covid-19 came around at the beginning of 2020: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit — you name it, have all been linked to a number of transformational and pioneering cases that have deeply disrupted the canvases of industries.

Besides making use of these tools for entertainment purposes, many sectors have relied on these platforms to stay virtually alive -choosing the ones that best fit according to the segment they are operating in and the public they wanted to reach to advertise and promote products and services.

In addition to the mentioned most common social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, other less widely used social networks have recently gained considerable popularity. Such is the TikTok’s case, where we have observed the emergence of various subcultures that offer multiple types of content far from what we would normally to find there — and have (thank god!) nothing to do with dancing videos.

Art world — a notoriously traditionalist industry, has adopted the new platform in its own special way. All types of industry insiders: art historians, aspiring creators, and a few established art institutions have joined TikTok, creating space to discuss a diversity of art-related topics; share the content pieces on new exhibitions, art fairs, events, studio visits — and more; During the 2020 lockdown, this newfound communication tool helped reach the new audiences and engage with the existing ones while galleries, museums and cultural institutions overall remained closed.

Art History on TikTok

A new wave of art historians is capitalizing on their digital native skills to establish themselves in the cultural criticism world, usually unreachable for these young graduates in art-related fields and mere amateurs. By taking advantage of the easy-to-create visual content and the music rhythms offered on the platform, this generation of TikTok art historians is attempting to make art more accessible to other community users with captivating pithy clips. While galleries and museums are re-educating themselves to promote inclusivity in their collections, TikTok art historians have found a place to deal with all the faces of discrimination in the art industry (e.g., colonialism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, etc.); and also inform their followers about the latest art news and trends.

Artists on TikTok

Not a few artists have risen to fame via TikTok, posting aesthetically pleasing videos about their artworks and creative process. There are innumerable examples, but the following one is surprisingly funny. Canadian artist Laura Kelly (@artbylaurakelly) uploaded a short video applying non-dilute varnish on one of her acrylic portraits by mistake. That error made “Varnish thoughts” became viral reaching 3.5 million views. Now Laura is selling her paintings for more than she could ever imagine. Another example is also Canadian pop-inspired artist Matt Chessco (@mattchessco)’s: with more than 2 million followers, he “dropped his job in 2020 to follow his dreams” — as written in his biography. His neon-coloured icon portraits have placed Chessco as one of the most popular visual artists on TikTok. Not interested in galleries and their heavy intermediation fees, Chessco sells each piece for $2,000 in his own online store.

Leading and the underdog art institutions on TikTok

As said before, not many art institutions have embraced TikTok as an extra social network to expand themselves to wider audiences -or if they have, they have not made huge use of it. A very curious case is Uffizi Galleries’, hopping onto TikTok (@uffizigalleries) last April to bring the museum to people during the lockdown. Unlike other museums, whose content on the platform is mainly institutional, the Uffizi team opted for sharing meme videos of some of their masterpieces -expecting to influence youngers. For others, TikTok has saved them not to close their spaces forever; this is what happened at Sacramento History Museum (@sachistorymuseum), where works as a volunteer the new TikTok star Howard Hatch. Thanks to his brief history lessons clips about historic printing presses on TikTok, the museum, now reopen, is receiving more visits than ever -besides becoming known to some native sacramentans.

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Taking into consideration that TikTok is an social media platform characterized by its virality, the visual content must be concise and eye-catching to call public attention in less than a minute -the platform offers a range of effects and video production tools in order to let anyone create engaging content. The thing is that these quick swiped videos are also short in fame, as their authors. Once at this point, the creator must decide between please the audience -and possibly differ from his interests- or keep posting content they really like.

If you are wondering, if you should get on Tiktok — the short answer is yes, it is a platform where growth is still possible organically, compared to Facebook and Instagram growing on which is requiring significant resources in 2021.

What is the catch? Content creation for Tiktok will require both a lot of creativity and a lot of commitment.

Have you tried TikTok for your arts business or organization yet? How was your experience?

Let us know in the comments!

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