Is Everyone on Instagram an Artist?

Kevin Systrom speaks with Simon de Pury and Klaus Biesenbach for ‘Instagram as an Artistic Medium’

An incredulous grumble emerged from the capacity crowd of art world luminaries at yesterday’s panel discussion at Art Basel Miami Beach when legendary auctioneer and art dealer, Simon de Pury, announced that “every user of Instagram is basically an artist.” Sensing the collective skepticism, the ever charismatic but never squeamish de Pury doubled down on his argument: “what has happened with Instagram is that every single person has become an artist.”

Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 — known to those outside the art world as that German dude with white hair who rips lots of selfies with James Franco and Lana Del Rey, and James Franco and pictures of Lana Del Rey, and takes pictures with and of James Franco and Lana Del Rey in the Rockaways — was quick to refute de Pury’s controversial point. “I actually disagree with Simon [de Pury]. We are not artists. Not every single person who Instagrams is an artist. I think every single person who uses Instagram communicates, and I think that’s a huge difference.”

Now we officially had a debate on our hands at Art Basel Miami Beach — the hot heart of the art world in December.

We wondered whether Kevin Systrom would take sides. Is he the sort of CEO who jumps into the fray a million miles away from his home court in Silicon Valley?

Well, the man who built one of the fastest growing social networks of all time did not disappoint. He deftly synthesized what de Pury and Biesenbach had said into an elegant compromise position that the more theoretically inclined members of the audience immediately recognized as the ultimate Hegelian move. “I want to bridge what you [de Pury] said and what you [Biesenbach] said — I believe that everyone  is an artist on Instagram in their own way, but what does art do? It communicates. It communicates an emotion. It communicates a thought.”

But what do you think? Is everyone on Instagram an artist? Or do you have to do more than just rip a selfie or ‘gram your outfit of the day to join the ranks of Rembrandt and Picasso?