DTLA ART WALK
The Hive Gallery & Studios: Profile
Step into The Hive Gallery & Studios during the Downtown Art Walk and you enter another world. There, surrounding you in the front room is a profusion of pop surrealism illustration and figurative works from kawaii to darkly ominous, all themed to the exhibition on display. It’s a carnival-like atmosphere with costumed artists mingling with visitors, as the rhythmic beat of a DJ spinning records beckons from beyond.
Suddenly, through the growing crowd emerges artist Nathan Cartwright, The Hive’s owner. Dressed in a stylish top hat and tails, and sporting an infectious smile, you’re beginning to understand this is a very unusual art gallery-cum-entertainment-cum-event space as he leads you behind the dividing wall on a journey through the long and narrow corridor packed with artists’ mini studios.
“There’s probably not many gallery spaces like this in the world,” says Nathan with a wry smile. “I have people coming here from New York who say, ‘Man, this is what New York used to be like.’ But this has been a slow organic process.”
Nathan first gained a following in the early 2000s for curating underground shows at the Hangar 1018 warehouse in what is now Downtown LA’s Arts District. With thousands of square feet at hand, he was able to hold large group shows of works by emerging artists, as well as events such as live music and art performances with up to 30 painters. As word spread it became a hub for art and artist studios, and known as the biggest space of its kind in the Downtown district.
During that time, Nathan joined the Gallery Row board of directors to help infuse more activity in the neighborhood through art and events. Like most of Downtown LA’s Historic Core at the time, the area saw some shopping and visitors during the day, but was desolate in the evenings.
In 2004, he was asked to organize an art exhibition for the grand opening of the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk. “It turned out to be a really big success. A lot of artists I showed there are now famous and selling their art for lots of money,” he reveals. “It was a really fun event, and the kind of life we wanted for the Art Walk.”
Nathan opened The Hive Gallery & Studios in 2005, thanks to gallery owner and Art Walk founder Bert Green who told him about the space. “I didn’t know how to run a gallery. I was an artist,” he explains. “But I decided to take the plunge.”
The Hive celebrated its 13thanniversary in April this year with its 144thexhibition. Recognized as the longest standing art gallery in Downtown LA, it has garnered ‘Best Gallery’ accolades from several LA publications.
The gallery contains two exhibition spaces with monthly shows. There are also 15 small artist studios open to the public on the first floor, and seven private and semi-private working studios on the second floor. Works by resident artists range in price from $10 to $5,000. The Hive residents can sell directly to their patrons, and receive 100% of sales. For the curated shows, which bring hundreds of artists from all around the world, artists receive a 60% commission. The remaining 40% goes to The Hive.
“I was really interested in working with other artists, and having them working here,” says Nathan. The small studios were meant to be working spaces, but artists quickly began selling their works and it rolled over in exhibition studios. “Bringing in real working artists from around LA County is also an important part for me.”
Most of the artists are young and emerging, and attended art school. But some of his best artists are self-taught. Nathan describes Roberto Morales: “He came out of nowhere. One of the best I’ve seen, and taught himself how to draw. Just amazing, insanely intricate drawings.” Morales sold his first works at The Hive.
Audrey Kawasaki is another success story. “She started here in the very first year or two, and her pieces were selling for $350-$800. Now they’re $20,000,” he explains.
“We want to help get the artists started, and bring in new buyers. Get people interested in the art market and art purchasing experience. When you buy a piece of art there’s only one in the world like it. There’s something really special about that,” he says. “At the Hive you can buy something very affordable. You’re supporting the art world. Supporting someone’s dream. And you’re getting an original piece of work that can potentially grow in value.”
Nathan describes the bulk of his own work as interactive, tiny relief sculptures. He also creates installations and stained glass works. “I’m interested in temples and mythology; psychology and religion. I like to put all that in my own take on the internal and external worlds.” His work can be seen on Instagram @kingbeeme, and on his website at artwrightstudio.com.
To organize the nonstop flow of exhibitions, Nathan often works with curators. The ongoing Sexy Beastshow (Aug. 4–Sept. 2) was curated by Elizabeth Rowin with nearly 100 artists, mainly from LA. Showing in tandem is their annual exhibition of artists from Japan curated by Artrates Agency. Titled, Onward: Navigating the Japanese Future 2018, there are 16 artists participating. Interestingly, Nathan has developed close ties in Japan. “We try to show every year in the Plus Ultra Art Fair at Spiral [in Tokyo],” he explains. He might also be participating in a fair in the city of Nagoya, working with another gallery owner.
The Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk is an important monthly event for the gallery. “We have patrons who choose to come on those evenings, and we always sell here,” he says. “It’s a great night for us. A great night of celebration and art for everyone Downtown. And we’re seeing Downtown grow from this.”
Originally posted on downtownartwalk.org.