Katharina Bauckhage, founder and CEO of Artflash, created a platform to make the art world more accessible and affordable to collectors and enthusiasts. Artflash gives you access to biweekly flash sales of strictly limited, curated art editions by today´s most sought after contemporary artists. Her husband Tobias Bauckhage builded the US business of Moviepilot and founded Super News TV, a video channel dedicated only to nerds.
We grew a bit tired of Berlin. We had lived there for over 15 years and we felt ready for a change. Tobias, working at the crossroads of the film industry and the digital space, was already traveling to Los Angeles regularly: to meet production companies, film studios and to build Moviepilot’s business in the US. The move to LA was the logical next step. And it seemed like a very exciting change of scenery.
The industry I am working in, contemporary art, has been booming for a couple of years in Los Angeles. But it's a different vibe, with less space for experimentation, less public support for artists. Artists move to Los Angeles in the hope to break through, to hit the jackpot, in a very different scale than in Europe. Bigger, louder and bolder. Artists in Germany are moderate and humble. So, on one hand, the art scene here is bigger and bolder and refreshingly megalo-manic. On the other hand, it is much more openly driven by money and the business side of art.
In the downtime summer of 2014, after selling his German company, Tobias initiated the “Venice Football Club”, a pop-up community Biergarten to watch the world cup. Partly inspired by the old FC Magnet Mitte.
LA neighbors, restaurant-owners and friends were very irritated at first. Why would anyone put up so much work for a community space without any ambition to make money? In hustle and bustle America this didn’t make too much sense. On the other hand, they were embracing the idea very quickly, and helped funding the initiative by buying “full membership” tickets and donating money on Kickstarter. Within three weeks they raised almost 20k USD for the project – something that would have been much more difficult to do in Germany.
In general our timing to move to LA was not random. At least from today’s perspective. The influence of Silicon Valley had just started to change the Hollywood system. So for Tobias’ business the timing was perfect. And Los Angeles was in the process of becoming the most exciting city for contemporary art in the United States.
And dozens of artists were moving from expensive and gentrified New York to sunny and affordable Los Angeles. For Tobias the move to LA was the logical next step of building his business. Moviepilot raised a financing round to fund the US expansion.
For me it was a bit more difficult. I had founded my company artflash only a few weeks before moving to LA. There was still plenty of work to do: I had not even launched my web shop yet. From the first day our son went to preschool I spent every free minute to prepare for the launch. And to put myself and my team in Berlin on the line I bought a plane ticket to Berlin for 12 weeks later and sent it to them. Now there was no way back and everybody realized that we had a serious deadline. Everyone worked really hard to meet that deadline and we did. I am sure it would have taken much more time to launch the shop if I had been living in Berlin.
To be honest: We were badly prepared - as we initially planned to only stay for 6 months and try things out. So everything from health insurance, bank account to mobility was really just set up for a short period. We started working in LA on a tourist visa, our work- visa-application took longer than planned, we rented a car for way too long. And we were insured via an international extension of our German insurance policy. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to live on the west side, so finding pre-schools, housing, work space, etc. was a little bit more attack-able.
We moved to Los Angeles in July 2012 not knowing how long we would stay. For both of our professions (digital content production and contemporary art) Los Angeles is absolutely having its moment tight now (and has been for the past few years). So business-wise there is no place on earth that could be more exciting. For us as entrepreneurs, California is very inspiring and motivating. In Germany friends and colleagues would always be concerned that both of us – having a family - were starting our own companies – without the security of a regular and safe income. In California, the perception is totally different. Here, people are very open for trying new services. People in general are encouraging, great networkers and supporters of new ideas and new approaches. We always loved that about the US in general - and California in particular.
It's commonly known that Germans complain about the weather and Angelenos about the traffic. So, we are not complaining about the weather anymore. And if we ever have to leave this place, we will definitely miss the sunlight that is unique and magical here. We also don’t have to complain about the traffic because we are lucky enough to work from home or from an office / studio that is very close. So I guess we don’t have to complain at all. Is there still anything we hate about Los Angeles? Oddly enough, we miss public transportation. Its absence really lets you understand its role: how it ties a city together and brings its people together. LA doesn’t have that. People move in solitude. Distances are gigantic. Everything seems disconnected. And that’s weird.
Los Angeles is not really what you think it is. Yes, it is all the clichés, movie references and stereotypes you already know. But then it is so much more than that. But you really have to discover it. Los Angeles is a lot of work. A lot of searching, driving, failing and exploring. But that journey is really exciting about this city. And endlessly inspiring for every creative.
Your next favorite restaurant might be in that shabby strip mall just around the corner. Your next inspiration might be on that next hill in the Malibu mountains. The most profound art show might be in that shady pop-up gallery in the middle of K-Town. Your next fashion inspiration might be on that Puerto Rican Meat Swap Market in Inglewood. Sometimes LA reminds us of Berlin in the late 90s. Just on a much bigger and much more diverse scale. In order to find its cultural richness, its amazing beauty and its stunning soul, you have to work a bit. But it is absolutely worth it.