Reified Realities / 2018
A case study in conspicuous consumption comparing displays of wealth by the Rich Kids of Instagram with sixteenth century oil paintings by the European elite.

Year: Spring 2018

Typology: Editorial

Size: 5.5 in x 8 in
Material: Yellow Cardstock, Acetate

Typeface: Neue Haas Grotesk by Max Miedinger

A case study in conspicuous consumption, Reified Realities compared displays of wealth by the Rich Kids of Instagram with eighteenth century oil paintings.
        The visual decor of any culture is a reflection of the ideological leanings of the ruling class. Such candid, yet incisive observations on the otherwise fortified world of fine art abounded John Berger’s 1972 book, “Ways of Seeing.”
        Berger believed immensely in the power of painting, but Ways of Seeing, was, above all, an attempt to liberate art from the realm of abstruse discourse and make it a subject of the public vernacular.
        His endeavor was premised on the view that the preachiness that abounded the fine arts was used as an ideological tool to wilfully obfuscate the dubious past that produced it. Hence, the central thrust of his book is to harness the democratic potential of modern mass media to make classic works of art accessible to the public at large.

Reified Realities / 2018
Comparison of Victoria’s Secret Models with Lucas Cranach the Elder’s 1528 painting, The Judgment of Paris.

Both, the oil painting and the instagram profile are paradoxical cultural artifacts in that they serve as truthful reflections of the human condition, while being used as agents of duplicitous projection by individuals.
        Through a comparative study of the representation of culturally significant objects, people, and their corresponding socio-political realities across the two mediums, the project attempts to posit that beyond differing representations of the same subjects, the two mediums are still driven by a common set of motivational factors, endemic to the human condition.

Reified Realities / 2018
Picture of pop icon Rihanna celebrating the new year with her friends, via her Instagram. Top: Frans Hals, Young Man and Woman in an Inn, 1623.

Reified Realities / 2018
An image from the Rich Kids of Instagram Tumblr page juxtaposed with, Rembrandt’s 1636 Self-Portrait with Saskia.

Reified Realities / 2018
Art was previously regarded as an agent of self expression. By contrast, today, it has metastasized into a medium where one can assert one’s position in the social hierarchy by displaying all that they own with the express purpose of arousing the envy of others.


1         Berger, John. 2012. Ways of seeing: based on the BBC television series with John Berger. London: British Broadcasting Corp.

2         https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/06/rich-kids-of-instagram-berger-ways-of-seeing/