Martin gives the example of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Over 6 million people visit the Mona Lisa every year, and yet “the journey to go see the painting can be more exciting than seeing the painting itself, because you don’t really see it.” In fact, if you really want to see the Mona Lisa up close and experience its intricate details, perhaps it’s better to consult a reproduction. Replicas allow you to “easily see it’s delicate features, with the added ability to zoom.” Essentially, the greater level of freedom that comes with interacting with a reproduction, allows the audience to better grasp the feeling of the artifact, more so than the original has to offer. One of the artists featured on the Gram_Institute is Evelyn Bencicova, who created a body of work in collaboration with Adam C. Keller, focussing on the weight that authenticity holds. Bencicova articulated that she finds the new conceptual way of playing with authenticity “very daring, almost critical in the times when high art refuses internet as a medium.”
“IN THE BEGINNING ART WAS FUNDED BY THE CHURCH. SOON AFTER BY THE POWERFUL AND THE WEALTHY, AND EVENTUALLY BY THE STATE. TODAY THE LARGEST COLLECTIVE PATRON OF THE ARTS IS THE FACELESS CROWD-FUNDING POPULATION OF THE INTERNET. IMPORTANT PORTRAITS ELEVATE THESE SEEMINGLY INVISIBLE PATRONS, TRANSFORMING THEM INTO HYPER-AUGMENTED VERSIONS OF THEMSELVES: A GENERATION CAPABLE OF CHANGING THE WORLD.” – JEREMY BAILEY
The concept of the Gram_Institute came from this idea of wanting to provide original, authentic artworks that can be published using Instagram. Martin naturally seeks for originality in everything he does and the timing of this project couldn’t be more appropriate, especially as our culture becomes increasingly obsessed with authenticity. For Martin and his colleagues, this notion of legitimacy remains at the centre of their focus as “the works are only validated once they have been uploaded to the Instagram page.” In some ways the works lose ownership, because after all, what is being owned when it is being shared? Martin emphasises the importance of “moving away from the possibility of being commercialised,” as one of the main benefits of a virtual gallery is this ability to keep the page democratic. The only way it could be commercialised is if the password and username were bought by a museum or collector, who would keep the gallery accessible in its entirety. No work can be bought individually.
The entire experience is meant to be shared, not owned. Martin recalls the initial development process of Gram_Institute and how it involved copious amounts of “skype meetings between artists and designers.” The beauty of this creative space remains in the fact that it is constantly evolving, even today. It has no defined structure or format, as that would be besides the point. There is no intended final picture when it comes to the Gram_Institute, it is a never-ending work in progress.
Martin provides the artists with the option to choose how many pictures to post and what the focus of their exhibition will be. When asked how he decides what works to publish, Martin reveals that they are interested in having a plural response of how this space can be occupied. One of the most attractive things about a virtual gallery, is the ability to freely experiment and explore different options. He believes that “an internet-based gallery doesn’t need to have a post-internet aesthetic,” which is why each exhibition strives to explore an idea or in some cases a material, by taking an entirely different approach.