Discover the world of Natalie Kates, Curator and gallerist whose unparalleled talent for discovering, nurturing, and promoting emerging artists has solidified her as a prominent figure in the New York art scene. Kates has been featured in Vogue’s Style.com, Harper’s Bazaar, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, Artforum, Art Nerd, Artnet.com, and Paper Magazine for her collecting expertise, tastemaking and contributions to art.
Kates’s passion for art and philanthropy has propelled her to curate with responsibility and impact in mind. In the early 2000s, she launched Style Curator Inc, an art production company dedicated to supporting non-profit entities with their annual fundraising efforts with creative art-focused events. In 2018, she co-founded LatchKey Gallery and helped launch artists’ careers; John Rivas, Damien Davis, Patrick Alston, Shona McAndrew,Lucia Hierro, and others.
We have a responsibility to shine a light on current societal and political issues. Thus, our primary curatorial approach is to speak to these issues through the authentic lenses of artists whose lives were strongly affected
In addition to her curating and event-producing work, Kates has raised millions of dollars for prestigious charities, including the Amref-ArtBall, which connects African culture and philanthropy, celebrating and highlighting the African continent’s talent with notable hosts and guests, including Solange, Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys, and Chris Rock. A project Kates co-founded and curated alongside other curators.
In 2020, Kates joined forces with her husband, Fabrizio Ferri, to establish Kates-Ferri Projects, a physical art space in the Lower East Side of Manhattan dedicated to inspiring and reimagining the future of artistic creation and collaboration, with a program focused on Latin X, Queer and Artists of Color. At its core, Kates-Ferri Projects is a space that champions inclusivity, celebrates creativity, and elevates social responsibility in art. In this interview, we delve into Kates’s curatorial approach and discover more about Kates-Ferri Projects.
Q: Hi Natalie, how are you doing? Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you share some insight into your artistic background and why you decided to become an art curator?
Natalie Kates: I have been a part of the art industry for longer than I can remember! In 2000 I founded and launched Style Curator Inc., an Art Production Company helping mostly non-profits with their annual art events and fundraising efforts.
The curator role is perhaps where I feel I can have the greatest impact on the art community. This is where I can capture emerging esthetic trends and societal transformations – as I see them – and raise awareness through the artworks and artists selected for the exhibitions. I have had the honour to work with numerous corporate and non-profit clients to curate exhibitions that reflect and align with their brand and beliefs.
Q: KATES-FERRI PROJECTS encompasses a contemporary art space exhibiting presentations and a satellite incubator space with ongoing programming, which you cofounded with your husband, Fabrizio Ferri. Can you elaborate on the essence and purpose of KATES-FERRI PROEJCTS?
Natalie Kates: In 2020 during the height of Covid-19, I and my husband founded KATESFERRI PROJECTS as a nomadic artist residency program in PA, CT and NY, with the idea of giving artists and communities the opportunity to engage with each other at a time when physical interactions where limited. Then, in 2022 we opened a brick-and-mortar space at 561 Grand Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Our program focuses on Latin X, Queer and Artists of Color whose voices deserve to be heard and resonate with communities long neglected by the art establishment. In doing so, we also aim to cultivate a new generation of collectors from the same demographics. Our incubator space, located at 573 Grand Street, is where we live and share our art collection outside a traditional gallery space.
Q: Can we speak about your curatorial approach to exhibitions, and what criteria do you use to select artists and works for display?
Natalie Kates: We have a responsibility to shine a light on current societal and political issues. Thus, our primary curatorial approach is to speak to these issues through the authentic lenses of artists whose lives were strongly affected and often upended by those societal problems and whose artworks powerfully communicate (often in very subtle ways) their experience with those problems. We choose artists with a story to tell and a creative, esthetic process that translates the story into something everyone can feel and relate to, whatever the medium used by the artist or the genre.
Q: How do you balance artistic freedom with commercial viability when curating exhibitions, and what steps do you take to ensure the financial success of an exhibition?
Natalie Kates: Every artist we exhibit, we start with a concept, and through an exhibition cycle, we discuss programming that will allow for a more extensive reach. There are no guarantees regarding the financial success of an exhibition, but if we stay true to our mission, sales will follow.
Ultimately, we and the artists understand that only financial success will allow us to continue to take risks on young, emerging artists. But the sales are only the means to an end: to fulfil our mission to bring new voices to the art world and engage the community.
Q: In addition to co-founding KATES-FERRI PROJECTS, you also work as a curator with Amref Health Africa for their ArtBall. Can you share more about your involvement with Amref, your curatorial approach for the ArtBall, and what attendees can expect to experience?
Natalie Kates: I am one of the original co-founders of Amref-ArtBall. I was always interested in African art and artists of colour, so it was natural for me to support Amref and help them produce their ArtBall. My curational approach is to select contemporary African artists with powerful, colourful work which speaks to the problems of Africa. While conveying the sense of joy and hope from that continent. You can expect the ArtBall event to be an immersive experience filled with style, art, music, food and positive energy.
Q: How do you see the role of technology and digital media in the art world evolving in the coming years, and what impact do you think it will have on the way exhibitions are curated and presented to the public?
Natalie Kates: I am not a “techie” or a fan of digital art (at least not yet), so take this with a grain of salt. The most significant impact of technology and digital media will be to provide more and more people with greater, interactive access to art (and artists!) everywhere on the planet.
The rise of “immersive” art is an example. At the same time, though, as technology comes to dominate our lives, art – more than ever – will be the shelter we go to satisfy our very human need for physical experiences. The physicality of the creative process will make “traditional” art even more unique and important in a world dominated by invisible technology.
Q: What advice would you give to young artists seeking recognition and exposure for their work, and what steps might they take to make a lasting impact in the art world?
Natalie Kates: There are many paths to success in the art world as an artist, and I don’t feel there is one formula. The only advice I would give artists is this: say yes to as many opportunities as possible – when they arise – until you can afford to say no.
Q: What’s next for Natalie Kates and KATES-FERRI PROJECTS?
Natalie Kates: We are in talks to expand our footprint in other cities and states while continuing to search for artistic talents all around the globe.