Sarah Monk is the Director of London Art Fair, which encompasses museum quality Modern British art and international and emerging contemporary art. Every year, London Art Fair connects over 130 of the best galleries from around the world with both seasoned and aspiring collectors, providing a unique opportunity to discover and champion the most outstanding modern and contemporary art of our time.
What have you been doing during lockdown?
We were both one of the first and last art fairs to happen in 2020 and count ourselves as incredibly fortunate to have been able to present and experience a successful 32nd edition of London Art Fair in back in January. Little did we know what was around the corner. Planning and delivering an art Fair is a year-long activity and is a hugely collaborative team effort, so finding ways stay creative and connected as a team has been key, with the inevitable Zoom quiz’s featuring large.
Is there anything in particular you have learned from the last few months?
I’ve definitely learned that I most certainly didn’t miss my calling to be a school teacher after 4 months of home schooling and full time working – sorry boys! I’ve learnt to accept that even after 20 years of methodically planning and navigating many a tricky twist and turn; some things are beyond our control. With every challenge comes an opportunity and can often act as a catalyst for positive change, both in how we live our lives prioritising a better work life balance and looking after our mental and physical health and how we can use fresh thinking to respond and ensure we remain relevant.
How do you think the art industry will change, going forward?
Our industry has been amazingly quick and creative in finding new ways to keep engaged with its audiences, support artists and keep the market moving. Within days of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic and the world going into lockdown the shift to digital offerings, virtual viewing rooms and online Fairs has been huge and looks set to remain a major part but not a complete replacement for what we do and offer, even after the museums, galleries and art fairs open again.
Do you have any advice that you would give to people entering the industry?
I would remain open-mined and not impose too specific a focus on yourself early on. The art industry is hugely diverse and I’m not sure I would have ever envisaged sitting in the seat I am now, back when I was an artist making work or indeed working in education in a public gallery. Remaining curious, building and nurturing relationships and staying alert to challenges and opportunities have been common themes for me along the way
Are there any art organisations that you have been particularly impressed by in the way that they have evolved and responded to the current situation?
I have been hugely impressed and encouraged by the resilience and creativity by which many of our galleries have found ways to sustain themselves and their artists during this time. For many the period of lockdown has given us the gift of time and with less to distract in the physical world there has been a wealth of content to engage with online. I have really enjoyed Piano Nobile’s ‘Insight’ series which takes a look at art, artists, critics and collectors, highlighting the stories behind a single artwork, relationship or event and Arusha Gallery’s ‘Exercise Three’ project; where Arusha has given their artists a worksheet to complete whilst working at home; asking questions ranging from superstitions to recipes, to what inspires them before being tasked with a final A5 drawing challenge. The final worksheets are all available to view on the website and drawings available to purchase for £110.