The Digital Wheel: Andrew Hosner of Thinkspace Projects on Growing With Change

July 09, 2018

In part one of The Digital Wheel, we were able to hear some thoughts from artist Skinner, regarding his daily interactions with social networking and how it affects his career and his process. For this series, I thought it would be valuable to swing the pendulum and also interview five gallerists from four different programs to see how social networking and technology is affecting New-Contemporary galleries.

The first gallerist in the series is Andrew Hosner, co-founder of Thinkspace Projects. Anyone paying attention to the New-Contemporary scene for the past 10-15 years is likely well aware. His prolific work ethic runs one of the most professional and well-known spaces in the game. Mural festivals, art fairs, museum shows, private collections, on and on, have harnessed him an uncanny ability to provide opportunities for his artists on a multitude of platforms. If anyone has a handle on the evolving digital landscapes facing New-Contemporary galleries, it’s Andrew Hosner. ––Gabe Shaffer

HosnerDigitalWheel6Andrew Hosner

Gabe Shaffer: When did you start using social networking platforms to promote your gallery and what format did you begin with?
Andrew Hosner: We have embraced every new platform as they have come to fruition, going back to the early days of MySpace, LiveJournal and Flickr.  The day we bought our domain name back in 2005, we started our MySpace and Flickr accounts. My wife and I come from the marketing side of the music industry and know how important that direct connection is with those that want to support you. Many of the artists we work with are early adopters too and it really helps us all grow together via each network.

What platforms are you currently active with and why?
InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Tumblr. We are active with YouTube and Vimeo too, collecting videos from artists we work with on our page and sharing opening night recaps and behind the scenes and time-lapse videos from our various museum installations, studio visits and such.

We tried out Ello but really didn’t feel it was going anywhere. We’ve backed off of Periscope, Vine, and others that fell off in recent years. Google+ never really clicked for us, not sure why. Sometimes not enough time in the day for all of them and we find Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to be our best for direct interaction. It’s still sad how bad Instagram has become due to their algorithms and all. It’s like they’ve forgotten the name of their company - Insta, at the moment - they keep claiming they are going to return things to normal. Time will tell.

HosnerDigitalWheel1A line in front of Hosner's Culver City gallery 

Was it easy for you to figure out how to interact with at first? If not, how did you improve?
Thankfully our history in music marketing provided us with the know-how to really build our audiences on each app at a nice pace. It has to be mentioned that all of this is due in large part to the incredible creatives we choose to support and work alongside. They provide us with such a high-quality work, and it’s an honor to be able to share it with a wider audience. At the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of content you post and how you present things to your audience. We exist to share, and being avid art lovers ourselves, we know what we want to see from the artists we collect and aim to keep our feeds filled with the same goodness. 

Was there a moment where you noticed a tipping point with how many followers you had or was it a gradual build?
We have been relentless in our attack on each. All have been steady and gradual builds, fueled greatly by the support of our family of artists and our strong ties with the POW! WOW! Mural Festivals. The widespread interaction and sharing of accounts that make up the POW! WOW! family has been integral to our growth on each network. Collaborating and sharing with the right people can create magic every time. 

HosnerDigitalWheel4Hosner and his wife, Shawn

Do you think social networking is important for galleries and why?
Integral. Many that have faltered in past years just didn’t pick up on it early enough. The old gallery model is dead. Buried.

Those that still haven’t figured it out will be left behind quickly in the next year or two as things continue to progress at a rapid rate. 

To us, it’s all about continuing to pursue things at the institutional level. From museums to libraries to universities to private collections. That is where we can really help build our artist’s profiles and strengthen their CVs with exhibition opportunities that others are simply not providing them in the States. The more we get the New Contemporary Movement exposure and notoriety at the institutional level, the more people, press and the outside world get a chance to see the work of the artists we support and our friends with. 

I see so many Twitter accounts that post once a month with a “doors open in 30 minutes” and that it’s and then they’ll quip things like “Twitter just doesn’t work for us” when they come up to us at an art fair and ask us what our secret is. My favorite is when they ask me where we bought our followers and if they can have the contact info! How ‘bout you just show some quality art by cutting edge folks and get a clue? I mean, you get in what you put out, but content is king, there is no escaping that. 

Has social media affected your curation If so, how? 
I’m not sure if it’s affected my curation in that it influences themes or such, as we generally stray away from such. I am definitely exposed to new artists on a regular basis that I’ll follow for a number of months to see how they present themselves and watch new work develop. See if what initially captured my eye keeps progressing or it was just a flash and need some more time to grow into their own style.

HosnerDigitalWheel2From one of Thinkspace's openings

Do you sell your art to collectors you connect with on social media?
All the time. Reach out via DM and direct email contact from our networks is key. On average we sell a nice piece of original work from our on-hand inventory every few days, due in large part to our vast reach on social media and history of introducing and helping to break out new creatives.

What are some positive effects social media has had on your gallery?
It’s helped us to become well known far outside of our Southern California home and has greatly helped open doors for us at the institutional level. When we can draw 500+ at an opening in a city we’ve never been to, still blows my mind and fuels us to do more. It’s why we do this. At our recent exhibition in Detroit, one patron was overhead proclaiming “I feel like I’m walking through my Instagram feed, all my favorite artists are here”. That put a smile on my face for a whole week, that was the best praise we could ask for. Our traveling ‘LAX’ exhibitions are all about making sure as many people as possible have the chance to see the work in-person of those we work so hard to expose and support. 

What are some of the negatives? Are there any horror stories?
The only negatives would be your basic internet trolls and artists that talk shit on other artist’s accounts or posts. I just do not understand why someone would do that. Do you think we’ll go and look at your account and be wowed by your work? I always say if it’s not something you’d come up and chat with them about at an opening, you should otherwise just keep it to your self and not be so jealous.

One of my favorites stories comes from a very established artist we work with. For weeks every post he put up, this kid would comment with “you suck” without fail. Finally, the artist was so puzzled they hit ‘em up on DM asking just what the problem is. The kid responds so stoked that he finally got his favorite artist’s attention and how excited he is to talk and connect. I mean, WTF? How are you programmed to think that is a good approach? Baffling to me on so many levels, but sadly not overly surprising in this day and age of disconnectedness and being blindly empowered by online anonymity.

HosnerDigitalWheel5Thinkspace Logo

Has social media had an effect on your relationships with artists?
When we post someone’s work, we definitely notice a big surge for those folks, especially when we are introducing emerging talents. Many we share are in turn picked up and shared by the likes of Boooooom, Creator’s Project/VICE, POW! WOW!, Complex, Colossal, Juxtapoz, HiFructose, Supersonic Art, Arrested Motion, Beautiful Bizarre, and many more. That has to have a positive effect, even if some don’t realize where all that attention originated. 

How do galleries remain relevant when social media gives collectors and buyers direct access to artists?
It really takes a constant hustle to be relevant as a gallery in this day and age. We outgrew the traditional model long ago and have really been aiming to blaze our own trail over the past 5-6 years. We strive to keep our content flowing via all outlets so that our patrons are always well informed. We work tirelessly to gain the artists we support exposure at museums and art fairs the world over, not to mention our ongoing ‘LAX’ traveling exhibition exchange that we've done 13 times to date with like-minded galleries around the world including Hong Kong, London, Berlin, Honolulu, New York, Chicago, Detroit and many more. We’re already working on our next two ‘LAX’ shows for 2019.

I discuss this very notion with many of our artists quite often, especially as they grow and become more recognized. All the galleries that didn’t notice their talent early on, suddenly come knocking. They start to notice the red dots and press coverage and decide it’s time to pounce. It’s all too clear to see sometimes. In this day I suggest artists thinking about connecting with a new gallery really need to make sure it’s worth it for them, for it is too easy to rock your own show in this day and age. 

A gallery really needs to EARN their percentage. If a gallery has a smaller following on socials, doesn’t do advertising and really gets more out of the artists tagging them and showing there then vice versa, then why even bother? WHY? The old model of I’ll turn the lights on and provide a space and just sit back and wait is so whacked and beyond dead. 

We work VERY HARD and are constantly opening new doors, new markets and attracting press attention and new patrons for our family of artists. Happy to go toe-to-toe in a debate with anyone that thinks that a strong gallery cannot help build and grow a lasting career. Those that feel strongly against galleries usually had a bad track record of working with assholes, and Lord knows the art market is filled with them.

HosnerDigitalWheel3(From Right to Left) Andrew Hosner, David Choe, James Jean, and Esao Andrews

Do you have any advice for emerging artists just starting to promote their work on social media? 
Good luck navigating all the BS ahead, it’s such a different world than it was just a few years ago and much harder with all the algorithms now to really be seen. Partner with fellow artists, rent a space, put on a show and make noise whenever you can. Do not wait for someone to come to you, but be mindful of how and when you approach curators and gallerists. Realizing another artist’s opening is their celebration and their time, and not trying to do a submission in the middle of someone else’s party, is a big first step. Timing is so key.

Please know that hitting up a gallery via DM and saying “check out my feed” and thinking that’s a proper submission is not the route to go. Almost every gallery of worth has their submission process on their website (if they are even accepting them). I get so many emails and DM’s asking “What’s your submission process” and two clicks on our website supplies all that information, as we aim to make it easy as we do enjoy viewing them and look over them all, but it’s simply impossible to get back to everyone directly, but know I look at all of them personally.

Since not many art schools provide a business or entering the world course, let alone self-taught artists don’t really have anywhere to turn, I can’t stress enough how good of an idea it is to download a copy of a great resource like “Launching Your Art Career“ from Alix Sloan. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone looking to enter the art world, aka the Wild, Wild West.