We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrew Sungtaek & Oliver Hawk A: Ingersoll & O: Holden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrew Sungtaek & Oliver Hawk, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The idea behind starting Expert Art Service was that we believed we are capable of much more when we learn to work together. We took this basic concept and applied it to each of our situations. I was working as an employee of a big institution, Oliver was working as a freelancer and gig worker, and we both had frustrations with work dynamics and how things were being done. We combined the networks we had as artists, branded ourselves with a name people could trust, and started getting the word out. Since we already shared a sculpture studio in a fabrication shop, we had most of the tools and resources we needed to do the same types of jobs we were doing for other people. For us, starting a business was about self empowerment and reclaiming agency in the creative economy,.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
We started Expert Art Service with the idea that the work we do would help us build professional relationships that could cross over to benefit our lives as artists. It definitely hasn’t been easy but we have been fortunate enough to build a ton of very meaningful relationships throughout the years and have been able to meet some truly amazing, talented, and inspiring people along the way.
I’ve found that working so closely together as artists, collaborators, and business partners, that the boundaries of art and work have really begun to blur and blend together. Sometimes work just feels like work but sometimes work becomes this amorphous collaborative energy where we are able to express extensions of ourselves.
One project we collaborated on was the Shrimp Car, which was commissioned by the SFMOMA and funded by the ICASF for a big soapbox derby event at Mclaren Park. We even had an interview on NBC about it. Seemingly light hearted and whimsical, the work was inspired by our early attempts to breed shrimp in the business office; it was also as a homage to San Francisco’s powerful history of entrepreneurial immigrant resilience, thinking about the history of Shrimp Farming in the SF Bay and the hardships immigrant business faced from the city. The project has had a few phases – It was displayed at KQED for most of this year, we also partnered with Chinese Culture Center of SF to celebrate and parade Chinatown small business owners through the neighborhood, and now we are in the process of working with an engineer at an E-bike company to do an electric drive conversion to the Shrimp Car.
If anything I hope that we can inspire other young artists to empower themselves, to take agency into their own hands, and to remember that when we learn how to work together and build community we are capable of more than we are as individuals.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For people visiting SF for the first time – grab some blankets, hit up Gus market, and spend the day in Dolores park.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We would sincerely like to thank the San Francisco Bay Area Art community. All the small galleries, artists, teachers, friends and family that supported us in the beginning. Thank you to the collectors, galleries, and institutions that showed us trust so we are able to show you the level of care and pride we take in our craft.
Photos courtesy of Robert Borsdorf