Everything Is Art: A Conversation with The Arte Haus Founder Kendall Hurns
Oscar Wilde once wrote, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." The fact that this can be debated proves that the world revolves around art. The Arte Haus represents artists such as Mia Lee, B. Robert Moore, and others who personify the bridge between fantasy and reality.
With a focus on reimagining the art industry by making the inaccessible attainable by empowering artists and creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable ecosystem, The Arte Haus is building a home for budding artists. We spoke to Kendall Hurns, the founder of this premier management company, about art appreciation, transitioning from the arena of sports to the art world, and addressing barriers in creative industries.
What would you consider art?
This is going to sound really cliche, but I truly believe that you can look at anything and see art in it. I literally look at everything and see an artistic component; that's how I approach life. Our cars are art. The clothes we wear are art. Everything in our house is art.
Coming from the sports world, would you apply that thought to sports as well?
A hundred percent! It's funny you asked that because I recently had this conversation with one of the guys I used to work with and someone I consider my brother, Andre Iguodala. I sent him a clip of Chicago Bulls shooting guard DeMar DeRozan because of his movement without the ball, and his footwork is a work of art.
Speaking of feet, how did you get your foot in the art door?
Through an extraordinary artist and good friend of mine turned business partner, Hebru Brantley. We met when he was at the beginning of his journey, and he was my introduction to the art world. I'm from the NBA world, so seeing a 6'8" artist blew my mind, but once I saw how serious he was about his craft, it drew me in.
You used the word serious. Artists tend to take themselves very seriously and have a level of intensity that most don't understand. So, how do you get the artists you manage to enjoy themselves as they're creating?
What I've learned from working with Hebru, and it's something I brought over from my sports management experience, is when artists are allowed the space to create, it's fun for them. A lot of artists shoulder responsibilities that transform into burdens instead of having the freedom to create.
Is that the reason you founded The Arte Haus?
Absolutely! Allowing artists to live their passion and have fun without worrying about any outside noise. Also, I was working with Hebru, and people presumed I was his manager, and I did kind of act in that role, although that technically wasn't the case.
It happened organically.
Pretty much. I brought the tools I used in sports management and applied them to working with Hebru. I was always in the field, putting things together, networking, and building relationships. And because I knew Hebru as a friend, I would bring ideas and opportunities to him that I believed made sense, and it was a seamless transition. We did well together when our relationship turned professional, and Hebru suggested I look into working with other artists. As an established artist, he felt my value and believed I could help someone trying to come into their own.
Do you ever find it difficult working with friends, or is it better working with them?
The funny thing is I've only worked with my friends! Since graduating high school, I've never been in a corporate setting. I've literally worked with my friends for my entire adulthood. For me, that's my lane because if you can work with anybody, you can work with your friends. I totally disagree with "don't mix personal with business" because, with a friend, you can have honest dialogue that would lend to growth. Don't get me wrong, we bump heads, but we hash it out and keep it moving.
Artists are eccentric people. Is there a time when you have to reel them in?
In creativity, throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.
Would you say that's the case with NFTs?
I appreciate digital art. The world progresses, and technology evolves, so I respect it. I'm learning about it because of the artists I work with, but I'll always be a fan of traditional and tangible art.
How do you manage an artist if they get discouraged from the boom in NFTs?
The first question I ask is, ‘How do you genuinely feel about it?’ Because of that answer, I know what they're really doing it for. If you're strictly doing it for money, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons because there's no emotional investment in only doing things for numbers and money.
Art is meant to evoke emotion and be thought-provoking. Is there ever a time when you don't understand an artist's work and have to tell them it won't appeal to a broader audience?
There's an artist that I work with named Esteban Whiteside, and he's very anti-establishment. A lot of his artwork speaks to the defying white supremacy and is very aggressive in defying the established order. So, my position is to be honest about expectations when we deliver the art to the masses. His art may alienate a good portion of the market, but if it's true to him, and it's something he's passionate about; who am I to tell him, or anybody, not to express themselves from the heart?
When artists approach you to be managed by The Arte Haus, how important is their purpose in that initial conversation?
It's extremely important, but I've tried to support every artist we work with before getting into business together. I've either bought their artwork or was looking to buy their artwork. Again, it was a very genuine connection. It's not just about amassing a bunch of artists on our roster. I own work from them before working with them. I've already been intrigued by who they are before ever going into business with them, so the why was already answered because I'm not just buying aesthetics. I need to know the substance behind it and the emotions the artist was dealing with while creating.
Are there any stark differences between expensive and affordable art?
That's another thing we're doing with The Arte Haus on the collectors' side because our primary focus is the support of these independent artists. Whether the art is $1 or $10,000 makes no difference because art is art, but we always want to make sure artists are properly compensated for their work.
Where did your love of art come from?
My mom's style! She had this dining room table with different color chairs, and I thought it was the coolest thing. That shaped my interest in primary colors and started my journey in creativity.
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Did you ever want to become an artist?
No, because I create in other ways, mainly brainstorming and collaborating with artists so they can be the best version of themselves.
A lot of galleries are white-owned and operated. Does it ever get tricky putting Black artists in these spaces?
Black artists are part of the foundation of the space. If you think about the most popular artist in the world, you're going to say Jean-Michel Basquiat. So, in terms of creation, we're all in the mix, but in terms of gallery owners and artist managers, there's been a separation in that because these predominantly white-owned galleries run the show. So, Black artists are doing their thing, but it's normally the other side of the business that you don't see a lot of us, which hurts artists who look like us. That's why The Arte Haus is important because we're not letting them take advantage of artists.
Being disruptive has to be a challenge.
We're disrupting the established order because a lot of galleries prey on starving artists, and we're making it so that it's mutually beneficial.
We spoke about art, technology, and the world's progression. So, what do you see The Arte Haus evolving into?
I want us to be the Klutch Sports of the art world. We want to empower artists the same way Rich Paul and LeBron James have empowered athletes. Very disruptive. Very pro-artist. And it goes back to everything being art because I feel like you'll see us manage more than just painters – uniting the world within the art space.