Art fairs: start your research early

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If you are serious about getting the most out of an art fair, it is never too early to start exploring the artists who will be represented there. Sarah Monk, director of London Art Fair, which took place in January, says that a bit of research can vastly enhance your experience at any art fair.

“I would encourage collectors to start their relationship with the Fair and our galleries in advance of their visit,” she says. “We communicate with our audience on a regular basis via e-newsletters and social media to help build a picture and create anticipation about what they can expect to see and experience at the Fair in January.”

The London Art Fair is the UK’s largest fair for Modern British and contemporary art. It showcases the full breadth of London’s art ecology, from some of the capital’s most established galleries in the West End to the emerging galleries and artist collectives of the South and East.

Leading galleries from outside London are chosen from cities such as Bath, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow – and this year this fair welcomed over one tenth of its exhibitors from outside the UK – including art centres such as Tokyo, New York and Rome.

Later this year, as the 2015 fair draws nearer, visitors to the fair’s website will be able to glean plenty of information about the work going on sale in the January fair.

“Collectors are able to preview the artists and works galleries will be showing at the Fair online from late October giving them an opportunity to prepare for their visit and research any new artists they might be interested in,” says Monk.

Monk has seen fashions come and go, but she says there is always an appetite amongst the fair’s audience for photography, sculpture, painting or works on paper.

“There seem to be more collectors who might previously have specialized in Modern British now looking to collect work by the next generation as well,” she adds.

She says there is a growing trend amongst art fairs to produce curated sections alongside the traditional commercial gallery stand format, which not only helps break the pace and enhance the visitor experience but also offers galleries the chance to show their artists in more of a critical exhibition environment.

The London Art Fair has several such sections. Photo50 is a guest curated exhibition which explores current concerns in contemporary photography and heightens the profile of photography across the Fair.

“It has enabled us to develop our photography offer within the Fair attracting new photography dealers such as 21st Editions from the USA,” says Monk.

Other sections include Art Projects, a curated showcase of fresh contemporary art from across the globe, which features large-scale installations, solo shows and thematic group displays, alongside an extensive Film and Performance Programme presenting a selection of experimental work; and ‘Dialogues’ – a new guest curated initiative was launched within Art Projects, whereby selected UK and international galleries are invited to make collaborative presentations.

Monk says these curated sections play a vital role in increasing the diversity of work on show and giving newer galleries and artists a point of entry.

“This idea of collaboration and dialogue is something which transcends the work itself and has proved enormously valuable to young emerging galleries offering them a cost effective means of participating in an art fair and forging new relationships and opportunities between dealers, their artists and collectors,” she says.

“This notion of ‘collaboration’ is also something which was apparent within this year’s Turner Prize nominees with each of the artists in some way collaborating with people, source material, medium and technology.”

Although buying art can become a great investment, the starting point for an experienced collector or novice should be to have an immediate connection and love of the work, advises Monk.

“Art is a mid to long term investment  and  you have to hold onto it for a while for the price to appreciate, so it is important that you like it and enjoy living with it,” she says.

“Visiting the fair gives collectors the opportunity to view an enormous selection of work under one roof. We work hard to create an environment which is welcoming and supportive to collectors at all levels. Galleries are there to provide as much information as a collector needs to help inform their purchase, whether it’s presenting the provenance of a major piece or introducing an emerging artist and explaining their creative process.”

Sarah Morgan
Sarah Monk