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K Knupp

Enduring Networks: an interview with Kristen Knupp, Founder of KPK Contemporary Art and Co-Founder of Art Decision

Kristen Knupp founded KPK Contemporary Art in 2011, with a focus on contemporary art from Europe and the US. She holds a BA in art history and an MA in Urban Planning from the Columbia School of Architecture, as well as a certification for the two-year art history program from Christie’s Education in London. In 2017, Kristen co-founded the Geneva-based online publication Art Decision, where she works closely with arts institutions to provide insight into the art markets and upcoming events in Switzerland, London and Paris.

KPK Contemporary Art represents contemporary artists from Europe and the U.S. and offers a diverse selection of works, ranging from paintings, pottery, photography, sculpture and mixed media pieces. Tapping into its strong relationship with the European and American art worlds, the practice provides consulting services and meticulously searches fairs, galleries and studios for pieces that align with clients’ tastes and budgets. www.kpkgallery.com/

Stephanie Yeap spoke with Kristen via video call between London and Geneva… 

1. Describe your business in 5 words:

For my art business, I’d say international, evolving, collaborative, forward-thinking and multi-faceted.

2. What inspired you to pursue this career? 

Well, I studied art history in college and loved it, and then I got distracted by different careers and family matters. After following a two-year course at Christie’s Education, I was very inspired to get back into the arts and look for a way to participate in the industry. I had a career in urban planning for 10 years, and then I took a little break and decided that arts really was my passion. I mean, the problem initially with the industry is the low pay, so that was what got in the way for me. That issue is finally beginning to be addressed. 

3. What’s the most wonderful thing about the profession?

I think meeting a variety of people, and the fact that it’s constantly changing. The art world is always fluctuating, and I am so happy to be involved with it. I meet new people all the time, and the constantly changing landscape is the best. I worked for many years in the property industry, and when I left and came to the art world, it was just a breath of fresh air! 

4. And let’s get real… What’s the most challenging aspect of the profession?

I think it’s quite difficult to make money. A lot of people find that challenging. You have to be very innovative and change your business plan if it isn’t working, adapt and find a way. 

5. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?

To think twice before getting a gallery space! It’s a double-edged sword; sometimes I think it’d be really fantastic but other times, a weight on your shoulders. There are so many other ways to present art these days, from online to pop-ups to fairs and private events, so you can be creative if you don’t have a gallery space. 

When I was in London, I rented a space and hosted pop-ups, and I’ve done the same thing here in Geneva, and it works really well.

6. What do you now say to someone who is just starting out? (Maybe it’s that one thing you wish someone had told you!)

It would be to aim high. Go for the best artists you can find, make connections with those you admire the most, and have a theme for what kind of work you want to show. It depends a lot on where you’re located but if I had a gallery space in the U.S., I would aim for the most well-known American artists, why not? 

7. What challenge is the industry facing that art dealers need to address?

Well, it’s the internet and the online presence, isn’t it? There’s the question of how far you can go with online sales because some mediums, such as photography and more graphic prints, sell really well online. But paintings, I think, need to be seen in person. There’s so much texture involved, and it looks different in different lights, so I think there’s a lot of potential with selling online, but it’s a challenge to figure out how to use the new technology. 

8. If you had to be one work of art, what would you be – and why?

DoraMaarSeated-3

Portrait of Dora Maar (1937) by Pablo Picasso. Image from https://terraingallery.org/art-criticism/picassos-dora-maar-seated/

Oh, I would definitely want to be a Picasso, one of his portraits like the Portrait of Dora Maar. Here in Geneva, we had something really interesting happen, where an online community called ‘QoQa’ basically crowdfunded buying a Picasso entitled ‘Buste de Mousquetaire.’ So everybody owns a small piece of it, and I think that’s really inspiring. Everyone who participated can vote where it’s shown next, and what’s done with it in the end. Even if they do decide to sell, everyone gets their money back and if a profit is made, that goes to charity and the owners can vote on which one will get the money. I wrote about it in my magazine Art Decision and I think it’s just the coolest thing. 

9. What do you personally believe are the best advantages of being part of an association like AWAD, and how have you benefited?

Well, I joined AWAD in 2010 or 2011 when I was just starting out in the art world. The network of like-minded women who were doing the same thing was a great support group to have. On the most basic level, you can ask questions like what shipping company or framer to use, to more complicated things like, do you know how to get into this fair or what’s the best structure for doing contracts. It’s a support group on all levels, so it’s great for people just starting out but also those who have been in the industry for many years. It confirms that the art world is a great place to be.

10. How can you make the most out of being a member of a professional network?

Basically, it’s participating as much as you can in meetings and calls. Through the network now it’s easy for me to contact other members directly if I have a question. Mostly I’ve been contacting people online and I see Susan (the founder and CEO) at Art Basel each year, so I tend to connect with others at fairs. But it’s the network that continues for years and years.

www.kpkgallery.com/ // www.artdecision.eu/
Facebook @kpkcontemporaryart

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