Natalie Kates is a New York-based curator and gallerist, as well as a successful event producer who raised millions of dollars for numerous notable charities. Natalie has established herself as a leader in discovering and promoting emerging artists. She has curated numerous exhibitions and site-specific art installations, developed close relationships with artists, galleries and museums in the US and abroad, and produced art events for both corporate and non-profit clients such as Apple, Core Club, Bacardi, VH1, GrandLife Hotels, ArtWalkNY (Coalition for the Homeless), Housing Works, Galeria-Melissa, Scope Foundation, Lower Eastside Girls Club, Children’s Museum of Art, Bloomingdales, among others. She is a contributing editor of VAGA and The Unlimited magazine, and has served as special guest speaker and moderator on numerous art-related panels.
Natalie’s work and persona have been profiled in Vogue’s Style.com, Harper’s Bazaar – Brazil, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, Artforum, Art Nerd, Artnet.com, Paper Magazine, StyleLikeU, BlackBook, ArteFuse, and the Daily Beast.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I have been in the art industry for longer than I can remember, initially as an art enthusiast, collector, and muse, later as an artist dealer and artist studio manager. In early 2000, I launched Style Curator as an art production company in order to help mainly non-profit entities with their annual fundraising efforts with creative art-focused events. In 2018, I co-founded LatchKey Gallery and helped launch the careers of now notable artists; John Rivas, Damien Davis, Patrick Alston, Shona McAndrew and Lucia Hierro, to name a few.
During the pandemic, my husband Fabrizio Ferri and I launched Kates-Ferri Projects as an artist-in-residency program with partnerships in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Toward the end of 2021, I stepped down from my role with Latchkey to focus solely on my new contemporary art gallery and art residency program under Kates-Ferri Projects.
We are excited to share with you the launch of our new brick-and-mortar space located at 561 Grand Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In addition to our exciting new contemporary art gallery, we will have an incubator space nearby at 573 Grand Street that will serve as a satellite artist residency.
Our mission is to support emerging artists and shine a light on underrepresented demographics within the arts ecosystem. Our robust programming will consist of curated exhibitions, artist representation and management, guest curators and an artist-in-residency program providing accommodations with studio space.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I grew up in the 80’s MTV generation as a New Romanic/New Waver who always needed a creative outlet to express myself. Since I always surrounded myself with other creatives, the art industry found me.
Where are you from and what is the arts community like there?
I was born in Vietnam during the war and raised on military bases wherever my father was stationed. There was no arts community in the traditional sense growing up on those military bases.
Has your upbringing shaped what you do in the arts today?
Growing up in a military family, I was raised with great values and work ethics that I carry to this very day. On the downside, I was never exposed to museums, art galleries or artists as a child. But I found my way as a creative person. I was always naturally curious about the creative process, and how that might look like in terms of a career.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
There are many different pathways to enter the art world. Artists need to apply to as many internships/residencies as possible. First-hand experience and mentorship is the best kind of knowledge.
What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good supervisor?
A good employee is someone who is motivated, engaged and inquisitive. A good supervisor is patient, and provides all the tools and advice for an employee to succeed. Compassion and empathy make for a good human being overall.
What are you most excited for this year at your company?
Definitely, one hundred percent, the launch of Kates-Ferri Projects into our new physical gallery space. This venue will allow us to rethink the role of the contemporary art gallery, and set a new standard in how we can best serve artists and engage with the community. A couple of exciting exhibitions are in our inaugural roster for this year: Homecoming: Artist Alumni is slated for March 2022, and Future Perfect: Virtual Exhibitions will be running from February to July with our gallery partner Artsy.
How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
A standardized and fair cooperative fee structure that helps artists. In an utopian art world, it would be wonderful if artists could receive a portion of all future sales when an artwork changes hands after the initial purchase.
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
During the winter holidays, we were Uruguay and visited the incredible CAMPO Artfest in Pueblo Garzon. More than 30 artists took over the whole town with site-specific art installations, outdoor sculptures, performance and experiential art programs.
If you could own work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
We are extremely proud of all the artists we have relationships with in our permanent collection. That being said, in the near future we have our eyes on Nina Chanel Abney, and would not mind collecting works from Glenn Ligon, Nick Cave, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.