Questions for Sarah Monk | Limna
Apr 18 • Questions for • Words by Limna

Questions for Sarah Monk

As we get ready for the London Art Fair, which returns this week for its highly anticipated 34th edition, we spoke to LAF Director Sarah Monk about her journey through the art world, her preparations for this year’s event and what you shouldn’t miss if you are in town for the Fair.

How did you get started doing what you do?

I have been Director of London Art Fair since 2013, having acted as Manager of the Fair since 2001. After studying Fine Art at the University of Ulster, Belfast, I first worked for the Serpentine Gallery and Public Programmes at the Hayward Gallery and National Touring Exhibitions, before moving to Upper Street Events to launch a Fair for emerging artists. I have also sat on several Art Prize juries including The Solo Artist Award and Art Prize CMB.

LAF.JPGLondon Art Fair 2020. Image credit Mark Cocksedge

What’s the first painting you ever bought?

My first artwork was actually a limited edition by Chris Ofili published by the Serpentine Gallery, on the occasion of the artist’s 1998 exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. This was also the year that Ofili won the Turner Prize and the start of my own professional career in the arts in London.

What’s something you wish you knew when you bought your first piece of art?

The most important thing to bear in mind when collecting art is simply to follow your gut and invest in artworks that resonate with you and which you would be happy to spend time with. Everyone’s taste is different and the way to get the most out of collecting art is to cultivate your own interests and preferences.

chris_ofili_1998-Copy_0-1780x1001.jpgChris Ofili The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of The Black Stars (detail) Installation view from the exhibition Chris Ofili, Serpentine Gallery, London (29 September – 1 November 1998) © 1998 Chris Ofili

What’s the most misunderstood aspect of the art market in your opinion?

Up until a few years ago NFTs was a phrase unfamiliar to most other than a few blockchain aficionados but now artists and collectors are showing increasing interest in creating and buying digital art through NFTs. Having said that it remains a baffling concept to many so we look forward to further demystifying the medium in our panel discussion at the Fair “NFTs: A new paradigm for cultural institutions?” On 21 April.

Which painter are you currently really excited about?

I’m really excited about Daniel Preece’s work, being shown as part of Kittoe Contemporary’s stand at London Art Fair. Preece’s paintings celebrate London, his muse and home for many years, and the pieces he will be showing with Kittoe Contemporary are part of his mission to make the viewer reassess their view of the city.

Preece.JPGDaniel Preece,Deptford Drift 2018, Acrylic On Canvas. Courtesy Kittoe Contemporary

What’s the last art-related Instagram post you liked or account you followed?

I ‘liked’ a very exciting post by the Womens Art Collection - formerly New Hall Art Collection announcing that from the 20 April and coinciding with their presentation at London Art Fair as our museum partner, they will be reverting back to their original name. We cannot wait to showcase this amazing display at the Fair and to raising awareness of the art collection amongst a wider audience.

What upcoming exhibitions are you looking forward to?

After a challenging couple of years for art institutions and galleries in the capital it is great to see their doors opening again with some incredible exhibitions happening in the next couple of months. I will certainly be visiting the major exhibition by Walter Sickert at Tate Britain opening later this month (28-Apr-2022 – 18-Sep-2022) and visitors to LAF can get a taster of this artists important oeuvre on the several of the gallery stands at LAF.

I am also very excited to see the second year of the fantastic London Gallery Weekend initiative happening across London in May. A great opportunity to experience London’s vibrant contemporary gallery scene.

Walter Sickert Brighton Pierrots 1915 Tate Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1996.jpgWalter Sickert, “Brighton Pierrots”, 1915 Tate Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1996

Tell us about an artist who should be getting more attention.

Our Art Projects section provides a space for emerging galleries and artists to show their work, so I come into contact with the work of a lot of exciting artists in the early stages of their careers. One of those is Tiffanie Delune, a self-taught artist who will be showing work with Ed Cross Gallery. Delune’s work explores ideas of ancestry and heritage combined with dream imagery in striking paintings.

How do you gain confidence when buying art?

My advice to collectors would be to remember in acquiring the work you are also investing in the artist and their practice - you are essentially supporting them on their journey. One of the real positives of a Fair environment is that you can allow a particular artist or artwork to leave an impression on you while you walk around. If you come across an artist you like, don’t be afraid to engage with the gallerist to find out more. They have a tremendous amount of knowledge, expertise and passion and they have brought the work to the Fair to find a new home.

What-I-Learned-From-The-Seas.jpgTiffanie Delune, What I Learned From The Seas, 2021.

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