The Homeless Gallery
Agency: Philipp und Keuntje & Mantikor | Client: Hinz&Kunzt/Hamburger Kunsthalle
Lions: Silver (Media)
Last year, 43 people died homeless on Hamburg’s streets. Even harder to swallow knowing that the city has the highest concentration of millionaires in Germany and its local government is committed to eliminating homelessness in Hamburg by 2030 under the motto #Nullbis2030 (#ZeroBy2030). Germany’s top street paper, Hinz&Kunzt, wanted to celebrate its 30th anniversary with a striking wake-up call for Hamburg’s citizens and politicians in particular. The aim was to draw more attention to the issue of homelessness. And to do something about the massive drop in donations. Once again, people experiencing homelessness suffer the most in times of crisis like these. Specifically, the aim was to increase the willingness to donate through the sale of the exhibition catalogues and merchandise. We also focused on potential donors and Hamburg institutions, which Hinz&Kunzt could later win over as partners and sponsors.
We all feel the current crises – especially the poorest of the poor: the homeless. To combat the super low willingness to donate, we turned to where the hard times are good times: the flourishing art market.
Hinz&Kunzt sellers became artists. And their stories turned into art. With AI’s support and the Hamburg Kunsthalle’s expertise, homeless people created moving art out of their life stories. The Homeless Gallery was only possible because AI allowed 30 outcasts to express themselves in an unprecedented way. Rather than substituting human creativity, AI became a facilitator for conceiving exceptionally human art. As one artist said, “Maybe it didn’t come from my pen, but it came from my mouth.” The art pieces were exhibited on the streets, flyovers, and subway stations. Pop-up galleries that, like its homeless artists, lack shelter and make their world visible.
The Homeless Gallery – 30 life stories, 30 art pieces.
Thousands walk past the homeless daily and don’t see them. With the current situation, many who saw them have stopped donating or buying the street paper. To help Hamburg’s citizens face homelessness and remind the city’s politicians of their commitment, we focused on 30 homeless people, their stories, and unique exhibitions. Video portraits, a photo series, a short cinema documentary and pop-up galleries combining beauty and grief into an unforgettable experience that staged art where homeless people live. The exhibitions also allowed visitors to buy merchandise or engage through QR codes leading them to the multimedia website, where they could donate and learn about Hinz&Kunzt, the art and the artists. To promote the exhibitions, we ran an extensive campaign including real-time information about the venues. We also recruited Hamburg’s two largest football clubs to increase the campaign’s reach and Christie’s to raise more funds with an auction.
Hinz&Kunzt wanted to find a new and unique way to have people face homelessness rather than look away. Enter The Homeless Gallery, for which we interviewed 30 homeless people for hours. These stories became an instruction template we developed with AI experts to feed the AIs DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion. Once the systems created an image selection, we invited each homeless person back to further develop their artwork along with curators in a long iterative process that would help them express themselves in a way they would have never had access to without AI. We then used the resulting art pieces to turn all of Hamburg into a gallery like no other. The 13 exhibitions staged art where homeless people usually sleep: under bridges, in parks and in train stations. To promote the installations, we ran a massive SoMe campaign between January and March 2023. Live streams, video portraits, photo series, a short documentary, and catalogues, plus Hamburg’s two largest football clubs, helped us increase the campaign’s reach. Hyper-localised DOOH drove people to the venues with real-time information. There, visitors had QR codes and multiple other opportunities to engage and support. The works will be exhibited again in the fall, but this time at the Hamburg Kunsthalle, when Christie’s auctions them off live. The Homeless Gallery shows how the compassionate use of AI alongside unusual collaborations can fight one of our society’s greatest ills: homelessness. Over 100,000 people visited the exhibitions, which raised street paper sales by 32%. Hinz&Kunzt’s web traffic rose by 75%, and we had 315 national and international news outlets reporting on the campaign. In total, the project generated an earned media reach of 87,3 million.
The Homeless Gallery shows how the meaningful and compassionate use of AI alongside unusual collaborations can fight one of our society’s greatest ills: homelessness. Over 100,000 people visited the 13 exhibition venues over three months. The special edition art catalogue became the best-selling publication in the history of Hinz&Kunzt and the increased awareness raised sales of their street paper by 32%. Their website’s traffic rose by 75%, and all Homeless Gallery merchandise sold out within a few days. And the press was also enthusiastic: 315 national and international news outlets reported on the initiative, and our social media channels created 750,000 impressions. In total, the project generated an earned media reach of 87,3 million while bringing the Homeless Gallery and the topic of homelessness into the limelight. Continuing the success story, both of Hamburg’s most famous football clubs invited The Homeless Gallery to their stadiums.