Thomas McKean stands out not just because of his unique subject matter, but because of his absolute mastery of his online presence. Many artists – especially in the avant-garde – are known for their continued interest and investment in new platforms and new media, no matter how old they are. It should come as no surprise, then, that McKean has leveraged Instagram in a way that sets an example for artists who are decades younger.
Digital platforms have freed art from the confines of galleries and museums. The HBO documentary The Value of Everything keenly details how the mainstream international art world has become radically commodified. With work by Old Masters increasingly unavailable to collectors, speculators have turned to modern art, driving auction sales of some work by living artists into the millions of dollars. Just when the connection between living artists and art lovers seems imperiled by this cash-driven dynamic, digital platforms like Instagram have allowed people like McKean to create a direct connection with their admirers.
McKean’s Instagram account is part showcase, part platform, part marketplace. In addition to posts selling his art and promoting his appearances, McKean uses Instagram playfully, posting amusing stop-action animated films and “magic tricks.” Short films such as What’s For Dinner?, Anything Can Happen in NYC and The Caddy & The Snail are art for art’s sake. They seem to be there purely for our enjoyment, drawing us back to the platform on a regular basis to see what’s new, and to join McKean on his singular artistic journey.
The fact that he has created this new online presence at a time when many others his age are thinking of retirement is an inspiration to us all.