Hello Artists is a newly founded photography/illustration agency created by former Wieden + Kennedy art buyers Rachel Shapiro and Leah Jacobson. By way of introduction I asked them a couple questions.
APE: Give me a little background. Tell me how you got started as art buyers at W+K and how long that lasted then about forming Hello Artists?
Rachel: After a few years of working at Blind Spot Magazine I met an Art DIrector from Wieden + Kennedy. His favorite magazine happened to be Blind Spot and he mentioned that WK was looking for a new art buyer. This connection eventually led to a move to Portland, where I started my career in Art Buying at W+K. After a few years at the W+K Portland office, I moved back to New York to freelance and figure out my next move. I’ve spent the past few years freelancing in the city, as well as some time working for the W+K office in Shanghai.
Leah: I was working on my BFA at Pacific Northwest College of Art In Portland when I started as an assistant in in the Art Buying department at Wieden + Kennedy. That was in 2001. It turned into an Art Buyer position a few years later. I left WK in 2007 to do freelance art buying and production, and also to explore the next chapter of my life.
As co-workers we always got along well. There was definitely the sense that we wanted some of the same things for our careers. We talked about starting a gallery someday, both excited by the idea of using our art backgrounds and visual skills in a more entrepreneurial way, but not entirely convinced that a gallery was exactly the thing for us.
We were each doing a freelancing gig at the W+K Shanghai office when we got our first taste of working very closely with each other on the same projects. Based on that experience we knew we’d work well together, so after Shanghai we began to think about how that would take shape. The idea of Hello Artists came about a year later.
We created Hello Artists because we wanted to use our skills and experience to help guide the careers of artists. Equally important is that it also allows us to do work that enhances our own creative lives. As art buyers we had followed the careers of all of the artists on our roster, and we worked with many of them on projects. So it’s very significant to us that we have an ongoing connection with each of them.
APE: Tell me something that might surprise me about Art Buying?
One thing that was initially surprising about art buying was how much mobility it could offer; it’s a field that allows you to explore the option of living in many different places. One might equate the industry to professional sports, the way people change teams all the time. Having the opportunity to live and work in China was an awesome surprise.
APE: Tell me something that might surprise me about W+K?
You’d be surprised how many W+K employees end up marrying one another.
APE: Do you have any advice for people wanting to start their own agency?
We’re a bit new for too much advice. However, we can say that a rep should genuinely like the artists that they’re working with, because they’ll become a big part of your life.