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Ten artists receive €100,000 as winners of Chanel Next Prize 2024
March 26, 2024
Richard Serra, creator of audacious steel sculptures, has died aged 85
March 26, 2024

In 2022 the Meta-owned social media platform Instagram was heavily criticised for its apparent promotion of short-form videos—which it calls “Reels”—over the still images the platform was once known for. Even some of Instagram’s top users, such as the influencers Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, called it out for “trying to be TikTok”. In July 2022 a campaign launched by the artist Tati Bruening called “Make Instagram Instagram Again” garnered more than 300,000 signatures, while the organisation Artist Support Pledge demanded “equal status for photos and Reels”.

While it is difficult to know for sure whether the Instagram algorithm prioritises Reels, museums are taking them increasingly seriously. Looking at the top ten most followed art institutions on the platform, the average increase in the number of Reels they posted between 2022 and 2023 was 37%. This far outstripped the output of overall posts on the platform, which surprisingly decreased by 0.4%. Some of the biggest increases in output were seen from the British Museum, which posted 31 Reels in 2023, up from 12 in 2022; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, up from 45 in 2022 to 77; and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, up from 114 to 172.

However, it is unclear if posting more Reels necessarily translates to an increase in followers. With an increase of 38%, the top-ten institution that grew its followers the most was the British Museum. However, the Guggenheim made no distinct increase and MoMA’s followers only grew by around 4%. In fact, the only other top-ten museum that came close to the British Museum’s follower growth was the Van Gogh Museum, which decreased both its Reel output (by 6%) and overall output (by 5%).

Million-dollar baby

How many users these Reels reach is also an important consideration. Of the top ten, eight museums managed to create Reels with one million or more views. Interestingly, both the institution with the largest follower growth, the British Museum, and the least, the Guggenheim, failed to break into the category.

But what can we learn from the Reels that did make it? The Met leads the group with 13 million-view Reels. However, 12 of these were Met Gala related, with eight having celebrities as the main focus. The only Reel not to be explicitly Met Gala related was a video promoting the Karl Lagerfeld exhibition in May. This shows a strong link between content that engages with popular culture and increased reach. This effect may be heightened by the prominence of the Reels tab in the app, which specifically works to get video content in front of users based on material they may have already interacted with.

However, this does not mean that museum accounts should eschew the art altogether—especially as not every institution has a Met Gala to fall back on. Most of the museums that hit the million mark did so when highlighting work unique to their collections, such as MoMA’s video on Ed Ruscha’s Chocolate Room or the Van Gogh Museum’s flick through the artist’s sketchbooks.

Artists vs curators vs celebrities vs influencers

It is widely accepted that adding people or a voice to your video can increase retention and engagement. But who should those people be?

Last year, the Met launched a series with the actor Rajiv Surendra, known for his portrayal of Kevin Gnapoor in the 2004 cult film Mean Girls. While the series performed well, the videos did not do substantially better in terms of views and likes than one featuring Ken Soehner, the Met’s chief librarian, or a video of the museum’s former security guard Patrick Bringley promoting his new book. Indeed, what seems to excite users is a unique perspective or insider knowledge—regardless of who that person is. Tate’s most-watched Reel featuring a person was of the artist Cecilia Vicuña with one of her works. Meanwhile a video of the singer and actor Dua Lipa on MoMA’s account did not even crack its top ten videos of the year.

Indeed, celebrities may soon be old news. As of March, the Met has already had its first million-plus-views Reel of 2024. A video posted on 4 January featuring Recess Therapy—the online sensation where its host Julian Shapiro-Barnum interviews children—has already received 15 million views.

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