Katie Kennedy Perez has worked in the international art market for more than fifteen years at galleries, art spaces and auction houses throughout London, Paris, and Geneva. After founding her first company Kennedy Fine Art in 2014, Kennedy Perez recently launched ArtFlow “to see artists working in all aspects of society.” ArtFlow now develops workshops to help executives at larger companies learn to think in a more creative way and connects brands with art through uniquely customized projects.
Guide us through the process of a corporate art project when working with ArtFlow.
Katie Kennedy Perez: Our clients fit into two main categories; brands who wish to integrate artists into their commercial strategy and companies who wish to build a corporate art program. In both cases, we begin by working with the client to define their ‘need’. For example, a company may be looking to develop a specific client category or change their brand position. We then work with them to define what an ideal outcome would look like in terms of their business objectives.
Once this part is clear we dive into the company values and try to understand their clients and how they interact with them. We also look at their DNA: such as the company’s history and where is it based.
From this point, we will submit a strategy proposal such as an Artist Prize for a bank that wishes to position themselves as supporting innovation in the arts, or a limited edition artist collaboration for a porcelain manufacturer looking to reposition their brand towards a younger clientele.
When artists are involved we make a pre-selection of artists who we feel would work best. The client can then make their selection and meet with the artists. It is essential that the artist and company share the same values and vision in order for the project to be a success.
What was the key moment you experienced that made you think that you have to bring “the power of art” into the culture of businesses?
Kennedy Perez: For me, the moment came when I was at ArtBasel, the biggest annual art fair in the world. I had the sudden realization that I had spent the last 15 years communicating only with people who had a privileged knowledge or access to art.
When I was 15 years old, on a trip to England to see my aunt, I discovered a book on the work of Magritte and I was blown away. Not just by the visual experimentation in his paintings, but also by his extraordinary exploration of the human condition. This is what motivated me to study Art History. I wanted to understand how artists, from antiquity to the present day, had played a key role in shaping society.
In a world where cultural hierarchies are no longer relevant and collaboration is key, I saw a strategic opportunity to bring art into everyday lives by working with brands and companies. Today’s consumers expect more than just a product. They are looking for experiences and values they can identify with. By building art into company strategies, we build a more beautiful world for everyone.
Since founding your first business in 2014, how have you personally grown as an entrepreneur?
Kennedy Perez: When I left Phillips to start my company, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into! My husband had been running his own companies for several years and I had followed his journey, but beyond that, I had to learn everything as I went along. However, I think that this is the best part of being an entrepreneur. In the beginning, I thought of myself as an art expert selling services. As the company has grown and I’ve had to learn to manage the multitude of other skills required—such as hiring and managing staff, marketing, finances and taxes, business development, and sales.
Something that has really helped me in this has been joining EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organisation), an international organization created to help entrepreneurs learn and grow together. Meeting with other entrepreneurs and learning that we all have the same challenges has changed my perspective.
How has your experience of working at Christie’s helped you shape the entrepreneur you’ve become?
Kennedy Perez: I like to say that you learn about art at university and the rest you learn at Christie’s! With hundreds of works per auction, each taking place at locations around the world, you get to see an awful lot of art. A major international auction house is also the best place to learn intensively about the art market and build up your network of art collectors, gallerists and museums directors.
What’s a challenge you’ve encountered while growing your business that you didn’t anticipate?
Kennedy Perez: The biggest challenge that I have encountered is scalability. Initially, I began life as an entrepreneur with Kennedy Fine Art, an advisory specialized in working with private collectors. However, this is a limited pool of clientele. ArtFlow is partly founded on the desire to extend our potential client base significantly by opening up to brands and companies around the world.
How do you find your clients? In a corporate setting, who is the person you’re selling your services to?
Kennedy Perez: Our clients are typically CEOs, company owners or marketing and communications directors. Basically, we work with decision-makers who have the understanding and ambition to develop art into their commercial or corporate strategy. Often they have limited knowledge of the art world but understand the significant benefits of connecting their company with culture.
Many studies exist which prove the commercial impact of art and brand strategy. In fact, we are currently preparing an Art and Brand Report for companies to better understand these benefits.
What needs to change in the field you’re in when it comes to incorporating “feminism” better? How do you empower women in the work you do?
Kennedy Perez: My belief is that not enough young women consider starting their own business as an option. This is not unique to my sector. Since starting my company, and even before in auction houses, I have taken great care to encourage the young women I have worked with to open their horizons, think bigger and to be bolder. One of the big problems I have observed is what I call the ‘good soldier syndrome’: young female employees are more likely to play by the rules and work hard. The problem is that this does not translate into fast-track promotion and the more ‘maverick’ male employees often speed past them up the ladder or break out on their own.
My role is to mentor young women entering into the art world to consider breaking the rules, to set their sights as high as possible and realize that no one is going to do it for them.
What’s your next big move?
Kennedy Perez: The next big move is to roll out our strategy for ArtFlow which includes some really exciting projects, such as a book on Art and Brand collaborations, getting our message out on the conference circuit, developing business in our core activities and building the team.
Our aim is to become the go-to reference for the most ambitious and innovative Art and Brand projects and thus develop a new role for artists in society today.