A firm favourite on the art calendar, the London Art Fair (LAF) returns to London's Business Design Centre in Islington this January with an enthralling medley of Modern British and international art. But it's not just artworks in the frame. With a host of thought-provoking talks, and curated sections putting the latest hot topics on the cultural agenda, LAF is the perfect way to kickstart the new art year As fair director Sarah Monk explains.

HH: Hi Sarah. What can we expect from the 32nd London Art Fair?

SM: This year, we'll see around 130 international galleries presenting contemporary art from both established names and emerging talent – alongside an inspiring programme of talks, tours and curated exhibitions. New exhibitors include Huxley-Parlour, Jonathan Clark, Frederick Charles and Rhodes Contemporary. You'll also see familiar faces such as VIGO, Flowers Gallery, Purdy Hicks and the Glasgow Print Studio.

This is your sixth year as director. How has the fair evolved?

We're proud to celebrate our heritage, but we are also embracing change and disruption. A vital strength of the fair in recent years has been the development of our curated exhibitions. Our Art Projects section – now in its 16th year – offers younger galleries a subsidised platform that enables them to participate in a commercial art fair but to be bold and brave, and champion the most exciting new talent. In 2014, we introduced Dialogues, a new initiative where pairs of galleries are invited to display their artists in conversation with one another. Alistair Hicks curates Dialogues this time around.

What kind of collectors does the fair attract?

A wide range, from seasoned collectors to art enthusiasts looking to build new collections. In the past, private collectors tended to work in finance, law, accountancy, but they're increasingly coming from more diverse backgrounds. We also sell to directors and curators at arts institutions for their collections, plus interior designers and architects – and even other artists. We nurture collecting at all levels.

Can you tell us about your partnership with Southampton City Art Gallery?

Since 2014, we've selected a regional museum to partner with. This year, Southampton City Art Gallery will present Gallery 80: From Generous Beginnings to Lasting Legacies, which showcases the gallery's outstanding collection of modern British and contemporary art. Founded in 1911, the gallery's has over 5,000 artworks spanning eight centuries. Although the gallery has important holdings of pre-1900s painting, it's known best for housing some of the finest British modern and contemporary works in the UK, including over 30 Turner Prize winners and nominees.

Photography has always played a big role at the London Art Fair. What's new for 2020?

Photo50, our guest-curated exhibition exploring contemporary photography, is always eagerly anticipated. And this year's edition, curated by Laura Noble, promises to be no exception. Occupy The Void explores the vast pool of talented living female photographers aged 50+ and the cultural 'space' they inhabit. There's also a strong presencevof female photographers complementing the Photo50 exhibition, including Ellie Davies, Karine Laval, Celine Bodin and Sandra Kantanen.

Where do you discover emerging artists at the fair?

The fair's Art Projects section features some of the most innovative emerging artists and galleries from across the globe. LAF has always hosted acclaimed artists early in their careers like Chris Ofili and Jenny Saville who were awarded 'rising star' awards in 1996. Standpoint Gallery will be showing new works by Frances Richardson, who won the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award 2017-2018.

How about the more familiar names?

Castlegate House Gallery is exhibiting a recent oil painting of David Landau by Frank Auerbach, as well as an important (and unrecorded) 1967 portrait by John Bellany. Meanwhile, both Frederick Charles Art and Alan Wheatley Art are exhibiting work by Alan Davie. The Scottish Gallery is presenting a solo exhibition by Pat Douthwaite, a modernist artist who worked in a variety of mediums including pastel, charcoal oil paint. Her collages were included in the recent Cut & Paste exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

What are the hot topics being covered in your curated programme of talks?

There's a lot! Whether you're an art connoisseur or just culturally curious, LAF is a fantastic place to learn about art. With themes including Collecting Textile, Radical Collecting Techniques Within The Museum Context and Playtime – artists working within the boundaries between work and leisure time – visitors should come with an open mind and prepare to have it broadened. All the talks are free with a valid, fair ticket.


The London Art Fair runs from 22- 26 January 2020. For more info on Quintessentially's Art Patron Membership, contact our Art Team.