Instagram Anonymous

07.15.13

Simon de Pury: ‘I’m Addicted to Instagram’

Veteran auctioneer and art-world figure Simon de Pury has developed an obsession with Instagram, and all it reveals about someone’s visual sense. From Snoop Dogg to Ai Weiwei, he pays tribute to his favorite Instagram artists.

I was late to embrace social media. But when I did, I did so with a vengeance.

Facebook initially appealed to my intrinsic urge to collect. Building up a respectable number of friends seemed like a fun game. I was definitely not going to ask to be befriended by just anyone and was therefore only going to respond to requests from people I knew personally. This proved far too slow a process, so I began to scan for potential friends by asking people I already knew. This of course exposed me to the mortifying risk of having my requests remain unanswered or worse, turned down. My number of friends inched up very slowly; I rapidly lost patience. To speed things up, I began to instantly accept requests from total strangers. This proved to be a smart move since it allowed me to swiftly reach 5,000 friends—the maximum number allowed by Facebook.

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"All-around 21st-century artist the great Kanye West at Design Miami/ Basel" —Simon de Pury ()

By that time I had basically lost interest in Facebook and I moved on to Twitter. This seemed far more suited to my short attention span and it seemed faster to build up a number of followers. I much preferred the idea of having followers rather than friends in any case, and there was no limit to the number of followers allowed. I quickly saw that in order to build followers you had to tweet on a regular basis. So I began to wrack my brain to come up at least once a day with a pearl of wit or wisdom. It was most helpful that you are not allowed to go beyond 140 characters. Also it seemed to me that following others was less a total waste of time and trivial than on Facebook. Russell Simmons (@unclerush /2.79 million Twitter followers at the time of writing this column) was dispensing several times a day invaluable advice on how to live properly. For me, who has great difficulty of ever coming to the end of any book, following the philosopher and author Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton /377k) provided me with great quotes that I could use to pepper up my conversation at dinner parties. But eventually, I quickly bored of Twitter as well.

One morning I bumped into Johnny Pigozzi (@jeanpigozzi /1,600 Instagram followers at the time of writing this column) at Charles de Gaulle airport (is he not supposed to fly only by private jet?). While we were waiting for our luggage I saw him feverishly tapping his iPad. He asked me if I knew Instagram. Shortly after that I saw über-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist (@hansulrichobrist /25k) glued to his iPhone. He asked me if I Instagrammed (like Googling and tweeting, it had become a verb!). It was clear: I had no other choice than to open my own Instagram account. I got instantly hooked and found that for someone as visually obsessed as me it was far more addictive than Twitter and Facebook could ever be.

Suddenly I could follow my ultimate heroes like Snoop Dogg (@snoopdogg /2 million) in real time. Rihanna’s (@badgalriri /8 million) talent as a performer translates well to this nonmusical tool.

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"My alter ego does not look in too great a mood today." -- Simon de Pury ()
There is no cheating with Instagram. You immediately see which curators or art dealers have zero visual sense.

Artists like Ai Weiwei (@aiww /33k) or Takashi Murakami (@takashipom /37k) must be bad sufferers of Instagrammitis since their daily feeds could nearly be equated with instadumping. Vik Muniz (@vikmuniz /46k) is another artist I enjoy following, and you can see how madly in love he is with the woman who has conquered his heart.

My favorite street artists, the Brazilian twins Os Gemeos (@osgemeos /135k), are also fun to follow. Same applies to my favorite toy artist KAWS (@kawsstudio /121k).  When you see their number of followers you realize that their impact goes way beyond the art world and that they are true pop stars.

Great photographers to follow on Instagram are Mert & Marcus (@mertalas /29k), Mario Sorrenti (@mario_sorrenti_2 /15k) and the Diane Arbus of the 21st century, the supremely talented Tierney Gearon (@tierneygearon /5,127).

But nothing beats living art, of course, so I never tire of following the feeds of models Naomi Campbell (@iamnaomicampbell /136k), Karolina Kurkova (@karolinakurkova /103k) or Victoria Silvstedt (@victoriasilvstedt /23k).

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"Pantheon Rome #pantheon #roma" -- Simon de Pury ()

There is no cheating with Instagram. You immediately see which curators or art dealers have zero visual sense. As I intend to remain active in the art world, forgive me for not mentioning any of them. Equally you have the explanation why people like Fabien Baron (@fabienbaron /16k) are such gifted art directors and magazine editors. Each one of his images is a gem.

I find it so intriguing when people who are totally unknown (at least to me) manage to build a huge following purely based on their Instagram output. The subtle photographs of Kristinenor (@kristinenor /12k) and the highly artistic grids of Tanya Ling (@tanya_ling /2,300) are examples in this case.

You also discover the voyeurs—those who either have never posted a picture themselves but quietly follow masses of people. Others predominantly post images of the past, such as Laura McLaws (@laurakitty /4,600). These can technically not really be called Instagrams but should rather be referred to as Pastagrams. You see who may have a narcissistic streak, such as Jean-Charles de Castelbajac (@jcdecastelbajac /8,357) or the brilliant architect Lee Mindel (@leefmindelfaia /347) since nearly every one of their images are “selfies,” showing them striking a different pose. You have the pure advertisers such as Sean Diddy Combs (@iamdiddy /2.4 million). I greatly admire the man but how many ads of Ciroc Vodka do you want to look at?

There is great coherence between the posts of Tory Burch (@toryburch /275k) Diane von Furstenberg (@dvf /154k) or Stella McCartney (@stellamccartney /359k) and their fashion. When you see their feeds you immediately understand the world they want to project with their brands.

My dearly beloved wife, Michaela, who I have the privilege of following in real life, has only condescending contempt for my latest addiction. Am actually relieved since I do not relish the idea of us both being codependents. In my line of business checking someone’s Instagram feed when they apply for a job has become a must.

Now what about my collecting urge with Instagram? It has proven a slow process to build a meaningful amount of followers. My current total is dismal (@simondepury /3,302)! My motivation for writing this article for The Daily Beast can only be that some of its millions of readers may make this number get less miserable. But by then I will have checked into rehab at Instagram Anonymous.