Is the Apple iPhone a blessing or a curse for art?

“I went last summer to see Kara Walker’s A Subtlety: or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, her massive and massively popular sculpture of a sphinx made of sugar at the old Domino Sugar Factory,” Ben Davis writes for Artnet. “The giant creature dominated one end of the vast space, the path towards it dotted with the life-size figures of boys made from brown sugar, liquefying in the heat, symbols of an unreconciled history of racism and exploitation.”

“But that wasn’t what struck me. What struck me was the people. Everyone (including me) was swarming the space, drilling their smartphones into it, skinning it for images,” Davis writes. “Everyone.”

“In effect, I realized, now every art show, whether it focuses on the hairiest Post-Internet transmissions or on Hudson River School painting, is by default a multimedia experience for a great portion of the audience, because interaction via phone is a default part of the way people look at the world,” Davis writes. “I’m of two minds about the matter.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Well it’s a curse for most artists. If people spend all their money on apple products, there will be not much left to buy the artworks they are photographing. I think it’s a shame that with every new release the price goes up. (54 euro’s a month for iphone6 in the Netherlands) My broke artist ass can surely not afford that. Apple used to be for creative people, i think nowadays it’s for wannabe creative people that really just wannalookrich.

    1. I’m not sure how it is in the Eurozone with respect to the pricing of Apple hardware (may be fluctuating due to current, I presume), but the base-model latest iPhone retail price in the US has always been $650 (with the exception of the very first model for the first three months). It has been eight years now, so seven models (3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, 5s, 6).

      And iMacs had in fact come down; they started at $1,300 with G3, G4, G5 and Intel Core Duo. Eight years (and five models) later, with the Core 2 Duo and aluminium body, the price went down to $1,200, and then again in early 2013 to $1,100.

      Let us not forget, for iPhone this is eight years, for iMac, eighteen. Bottom line, Apple gear has never gone more expensive; over the years the price has held steady, and in some cased dropped down, while the specs have gone significantly up (as well as cost-of-living, inflation and wages). In other words, iPhones, iMacs and others are getting cheaper every year.

      I bought my first Mac in 1995 (low-end PowerMac 8100). It cost me $2,700 (they didn’t have iMacs back then). At the time, a movie ticket in Manhattan cost me some $8. Today, they don’t have an equivalent to the PowerMac 8100 (the Mac Pro is comparable to the high-end model at the time was over $5,000), but an iMac is $1,100, and a movie ticket is $15.

      If there ever was a time for a broke artist to own Apple gear, it is now, since it is cheaper and more affordable than it ever was.

      1. Dude, my 512KE in 1985 was $2500 with UCLA discount! Added a SCSI port and 10MB HDD a year later – that’s TEN MEGABYTES – for $1299.
        Either get in line or get a DULL dudes. Gear this good isn’t cheap. Never was. But it lasts 400% longer than cheap box-maker crap.

        1. Sounds like you are dumping on Predrag?

          I bought my first Mac January 24, 1984 (printer and taxes >$3000) and over a hundred since. It came with MacWrite* and MacPaint free.

          * Talk about cheap, WordStar sold for $500 at the time vs Apple’s apps at <$200.

    2. What passes for “art” these days can be made out of sugar cubes or dog turds. It’s bought by pretentious schmucks with more money than taste or brains.

      It seems like a remember seeing an episode of 60 Minutes showing the Netherlands socialist system of buying so called art from so called artists and having to build more air-conditioned warehouses to store all of the crap. What a racket for the artist.

    3. And your gas is 1.80 EU/L vs 0.80 EU/L in the USA

      Could you break down the 54 EU/Mo for iPhone 6?

      Like any great creative people, a chisel and a hammer is all you need.
      As the adage goes, “A poor artist blames his tools,”…

    4. My wife is an artist and one of her projects is iPhone-based. Most of her artist friends have iPhones. We live in the US, so I cannot comment on the cost of an iPhone in the Netherlands, but the new iPhones here are not necessarily more expensive with each iteration and older models are discounted, often with no upfront cost. You specifically reference the monthly cost, but here in the US most of that monthly cost is carrier fees that are not specific to iPhones. There are some carriers here that have low cost monthly service for iPhone. So I do not agree that the iPhone, at least in the US, is “a curse to most artists”.

  2. Apple’s whole lineup is for art lovers. Every picture taken with an iPhone is a possible work of art. My mom is 88. She used to be a painter. She was amazed at how much the iPad was able to take a painful experience and simplify it. She painted with everything from watercolors to acrylics and oils. Portrait art was done by taking a black and white proof and painting the portrait with color. Many of the apps today allow once tedious procedures to be done with an electronic brush stroke. I think high level art is more attainable to a wide audience now than ever before.

  3. We’re hearing this all the time about everything. Is the iPhone a curse for concerts, going to the beach, a walk in the park, birthday parties, time with our families?

    Here’s an answer to that:

    iPhones, and everything else in our new digital lifestyles can be tools that enhance the experience as well as providing the ability to share the experience and means by which to revisit it.

    As someone who “works from home” and “home” can be anywhere in the world with connectivity, I travel a ton and sometimes my travel gets interrupted by work. I may take a fraction of my time while hiking around the top of the Rock of Gibraltar to have a conference call, and people may think “poor guy, he’s working on vacation”, but the reality is that I’m vacationing on work time.

    Sure, there’s the evil opposite of all of this where people abuse these tools and shove their way to the front of the crowd at the Louvre to take a crappy picture of the Mona Lisa before walking away while updating their social media feeds with complete disregard to all of the magnificent art in the place. Or people blocking the view of people behind them as they hold up iPads with the screen on full bright, as they take crappy video that nobody will ever see of a concert.

    But, as people learn to properly use these new tools and work them into their lives, there’s far greater potential for enhancement of the experience.

    1. My only problem with the commercial is that the child is non-representative of how most kids adopt technology. This is a window to the abnormal, a best case scenario.

      The reason at first we all think he’s isolating himself or being left out of the Christmas experience, is from our own experiences and expectations. When we all realize what he has done it’s a relief and joy.

      The video he produced takes a lot of planning talent and practice.

      Many parents who think providing resources to their kids, hoping they will use it artistically, will be disappointed. However aside from this I think parents know their kids and just want them to be happy.

      About the topic however, galleries need to not allow photography. It’s that simple. Then everyone can get back to enjoying art, instead of taking home a 2D copy.

      1. “About the topic however, galleries need to not allow photography. It’s that simple. Then everyone can get back to enjoying art, instead of taking home a 2D copy.”

        I think it depends on the gallery and the type of photography going on. For example in the Louvre, they allow photography (no flash, no tripod), and as a result, it’s an extraordinarily wonderful place to go and learn with a DSLR with the statues, due to the lighting, colors and how close you can get to the subjects. I did this a long time ago and came out a much better photographer as well as having a much better appreciation for the art as I was looking at it from a different perspective.

        Additionally, there’s something to be said for allowing photography for providing an opportunity for people to promote the gallery/museum amongst their friends and followers.

        All of this has to be taken into the proper context of using etiquette and in places/times where people aren’t obscuring the view with screens just to blast a bazillion photos and not experience the art at all.

        As for the ad… my point is that the whole set up of the ad, the false impression that he’s disengaged and consumed with his iPhone, can be a false impression sometimes, as what happens to me all the time. And not just the work example I gave. I often write reviews of places. It’s very common that I may be in a room writing up everything I’m experiencing only to have someone see me and comment, “Can’t get away from work, eh?”

        Like most tools, the iPhone can be abused and ruin our ability to enjoy and experience life to its fullest. On the other hand, when properly used, tools like the iPhone can greatly enhance our experiences in life, and in many cases even enable them.

  4. Clearly, you guys are not involved in the arts, and neither is the author of the piece. A lot of people buy art, many artists make a good living, and museums and galleries generally speaking already *do* ban photography. Don’t believe everything you read on the interwebs. 😉

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