Damien Hirst @damienhirst
Damien Hirst’s Instagram profile is actually rather fun. He may rank as the UK’s richest living artist, but he is down to earth on social media. He uses the platform as an intimate scrapbook, posting everything from panoramic views of his lockdown pad to “From That Psychiatrist’s Couch”, in which he takes questions from the public and answers them in a series of IGTV videos. Keep an eye on the captions — recently the artist has been using them to run competitions for his isolated followers, including a search for the “best comment about hope”, “something that keeps you smiling in all this chaos, mayhem and mixed messages”. His prize giveaways have included signed examples of his paint-splattered T-shirts (washed, he assures us), followed by posts of rainbows to raise money for coronavirus charities.
Cindy Sherman @cindysherman
From slow-mo to super-zoom, the documentation of our daily lives on social media has become an art, and even more so in the era of self-isolation. Cindy Sherman, the American artist who has worked as her own model for 40 years, dives into the ubiquitous and oft-maligned stream of social media — selfies — head-on. Selfies, however, are merely another form of self-portraiture, and needn’t always breed narcissism. They can prompt self-reflection, as this artist’s Instagram profile shows. Sherman’s disturbing, sometimes distasteful examples stretch the boundaries of the genre — quite literally, because of her fondness for distortion. Recently she has fed her face into unforgiving photo-editing applications such as Facetune as part of a charity project that donates food to families in need. “Hang in there …” she writes in the caption, hiding pearls of hope beneath the sinister portraits.
Ai Weiwei @aiww
Ai Weiwei gained recognition in Britain when he scattered 100 million individually crafted ceramic sunflower seeds across Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2010. However, he is better known for his brave, provocative works that push the boundaries of censorship in China; he has openly criticised the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights, and investigated numerous cover-ups and instances of corruption. In criticism of China’s alleged efforts to conceal the outbreak of coronavirus, Weiwei has lifted the lid on contemporary life in the nation during the Covid-19 pandemic on Instagram. His profile has been populated by amusing images of people social distancing — some with face masks, some without — almost all of them framed by the fuzzy pixels of what seems to be the world’s most popular video conferencing platform, Zoom. Artists have always used whatever resources are available to tell their stories, stretching what counts as a “medium”, and Zoom as Weiwei’s digital canvas is no exception.
Giulia Bernardelli @bernulia
Some artists have found it difficult to work during lockdown, but Giulia Bernardelli has been spared this struggle — all she requires to create her impeccably detailed artworks are the spilled remnants of a cup of coffee. Nodding to the Renaissance influences of her country, the Italian artist can recreate Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes with the carefully directed splashes of a spoon, all while she has her morning dose of caffeine. Leftover food that she finds in her kitchen — from blobs of ice cream to bits of fruit peel — sometimes make the cut too. Recently she has been keeping the creative juices flowing by helping her stay-at-home followers to unleash their artistic talents and make the most of household materials, sharing prompts and workshop challenges on Instagram using the hashtag #CreateAtHome. The instructions are given in Italian, but you can easily follow her lead as the videos chart each artwork’s composition step by step.
Martin Creed @martin_creed
The Turner prize-winning artist Martin Creed, born in Yorkshire and raised in Glasgow, is a social media eccentric. The audacity of one of his most famous pieces, Work No. 227, which consists of an empty room with the lights switching on and off, is mirrored in his outrageous dress sense — the artist is worth following for his dazzling bow ties, costume accessories, hats and love of face paint as much as anything else. Creed has been busy in lockdown (or, as he posts, busy in “lockfrown”), running the regular “Live at Home” video series on Instagram to lighten the mood. Whether he’s inexplicably sporting a wig made of socks (and apparently spending his quarantine sewing up old ones) or spontaneously engaging in energetic musical serenades on the guitar or harmonica (or both, simultaneously), his profile will puzzle and perplex. Still, it’s fun, and always features his wonderful moustache.
The Bristol street artist Banksy has been forced to isolate like the rest of us, but this hasn’t stopped him from lightening the gloom and gravity of lockdown with his refreshingly comic and subversive artworks at home. While the latest piece he shared on Instagram is more earnest — a boy plays with a nurse superhero toy in tribute to NHS workers — his recent scene of rat-infested lavatory mayhem pokes fun at the pandemic stockpilers. The rodent is the symbol he uses to criticise the human race, while what appears to be the beginnings of a tally of the days in lockdown is scrawled across the wall in red lipstick. “My wife hates it when I work from home,” he writes alongside the picture. The anonymous and famously private artist will not be clogging your feed with long, self-absorbed captions any time soon, but when he does decide to share his often tongue-in-cheek thoughts in the digital ether, they’re well worth reading. New projects appear unannounced, each one laden with layers of socio-political commentary that startle the scroller and demand a moment of reflection.
Yoko Ono @yokoonoofficial
The art of Yoko Ono has been integral to the development of feminist performance practices. One of her most iconic works is Cut Piece (1964), in which she sits on a stage dressed in a suit and invites audience members to cut off a piece of her clothing with a pair of scissors. Nowadays, documenting her daily life on Instagram, she mostly uploads shots of her many splendid hats — there’s an impressive array. Between the glamorous poses, however, you’ll find a string of original poetry and thought-provoking activist posts that press for world peace and an end to war. Her profile is full of positivity, love and gratitude, as well as intimate stories giving an insight into her life as the wife of John Lennon and her friendship with Andy Warhol.
Jeff Koons @jeffkoons
Jeff Koons, one of the most popular contemporary artists in the US, is known for his cartoon-like creations. It comes as no surprise, then, that his Instagram profile is a playground bursting with life and colour. It is full of pictures of his iconic balloon animals, fashioned in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces, alongside his sculptures of Popeye and the Hulk, stirring up memories of childhood. As well as posts about his artwork, more personal snaps give a refreshing insight into juggling life as an artist and a father. Let loose on social media, expect him to share cheery thumbs-up selfies, intimate family moments and photos of home-cooked meals alongside the masterpieces.
Olafur Eliasson @studioolafureliasson
The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is known for his large-scale installation art and sculptures exploring issues of climate change, energy and migration. He often enjoys bringing natural phenomena such as light, water and rainbows to a gallery space, but the coronavirus outbreak has not deterred Eliasson or his mission to change how we look at the Earth. After he launched the #WeUsedTo initiative, an invitation to share reflections on the Covid-19 pandemic experience, his social media has become an open scrapbook for people to explore, share and add their own perspective to the conversation. “I used to be surrounded by the sound of cars and planes. Now I listen to the birds.”
After spending weeks at home, mundane household items are probably the last thing you want to see clogging your Instagram feed. However, the Danish/Swiss duo PUTPUT, with their fondness for furniture, make a thought-provoking addition. Fusing pop art with surrealism and a contemporary reinterpretation of still life, the artists are skilled at transforming domestic objects into the extraordinary — a smoker’s pipe becomes a vase, a sponge poses as an ice lolly, a paint roller skewers vegetables. Each post prompts a double-take.
Gerhard Richter @gerhard.richter
“Art is the highest form of hope,” the contemporary German artist Gerhard Richter has said. While there won’t be much in the way of conversation if you follow him on Instagram — the captions are minimalist with hashtags only — it’s definitely a soothing experience to scroll through his profile. Between the bold, gestural abstractions of his paintings, subtly exploring the visual effects of photography, the imagination is set free to contemplate the illusion of space. You can also see photos of the artist at work and glimpse the occasional masterpiece-in-progress.