Kleinwort Hambros Emerging Artist prize : interview with Paul Kearney and Katie Kennedy

As we are only a few weeks away from revealing the winner of the Kleinwort Hambros Emerging Artist Prize, we have asked our Head of Private Banking, Paul Kearney and ArtFlow Agency founder Katie Kennedy to tell us more about the creation of this prize.

Paul, what has been the main motivation in launching the Kleinwort Hambros Emerging Artist Prize in the UK?

PK: As a group, Societe Generale, has been supporting Contemporary Art for the past 20 years and holds one of the largest corporate collections worldwide. We also have close and long-standing relationships with the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery in London.
To demonstrate our Group-wide commitment to supporting Contemporary Art, and following the success of the Emerging Artist Prize by Societe Generale Private Banking in Switzerland, we decided to launch this exciting new initiative in the UK.  Kleinwort Hambros established its presence across the UK over 20 years ago and we wanted to show our support for rising talent in the UK-wide in this new and unique way. 
We have worked closely with ArtFlow Agency, a specialised art consultancy firm to create this prize. The prize aims to reward young artists, aged up to 35, who have made an original artistic contribution in one or more of the following fields: painting, photography, digital art, sculpture, installation, video, or drawing. Our aim is to host this every two years.

This is also the only UK Emerging Artist Prize organised by a private bank. What does this mean for the Bank?

PK: We are very proud to be the first private bank to recognise emerging artists across the UK. Having built up a strong regional presence over the past ten years, we are able to serve our clients at a local level. We understand the importance of maintaining a forward-thinking approach with a regional focus outside of London. Supporting young artists across all the regions is another way to demonstrate our dedication nationwide.

What is the overall ambition of the Emerging Artist Prize and what opportunities will this present for the Bank?

PK: The calibre of the artists is very impressive and we are very fortunate to have a prestigious panel judging the prize. It has been a very interesting and inspiring experience to see the variety of work and this has reinforced our ambition to become a patron of young talent in the UK. Creating a platform to raise visibility for up and coming contemporary artists is a Group-wide focus. Equally, we want to appeal to the younger generation of clients.  This initiative helps to reinforce our position as a forward-thinking bank, driven by creativity and innovation.

Katie, what has captured your interest the most about this initiative?

KK: I was really captured by the regional approach that Kleinwort Hambros wished to give to the prize. The bank has offices in various cities throughout the United Kingdom and this lead us to invite nominators from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We were confident that this would lead to a very interesting and diverse selection of artists and works and we are happy to see this confirmed. The jury was also selected from a regional perspective, with distinguished jury members representing the various locations of the Kleinwort Hambros branches. The result is a panorama, not only of the most talented emerging artists, but also the extraordinary art institutions and curators working across the United Kingdom today.

This has been a collaborative approach from the start. Are you able to share the process with us?

KK: It was a pleasure to work with Kleinwort Hambros as from the beginning they were very clear that their main goal was to ensure that the prize highlighted and supported the most talented emerging artists working in the UK. They entrusted us to invite the most pertinent nominators from across the UK and to build a distinguished and highly respected jury panel to this effect. Furthermore, the prize itself is conceived to promote all the nominated artists within a catalogue, and the cash prize the final winner is intended to allow them to pursue their work in total independence.

How important is it become a key supporter of contemporary art in the UK?

KK: Now more than ever it is important to support the Arts, and particularly the visual Arts, as a means of reflecting on the world we live in. Artists are the mirror of society and ensuring that they can work independently is the definition of a cultured society and values that we should defend in this day and age. As the only banking institution with a UK-wide Emerging Artist Prize, Kleinwort Hambros is making a long-term commitment to supporting the art scene in the years to come.