An interview with Ana Bruque, Gallery Relations & Project Manager at London Art Fair

It’s the first art fair to kick off 2020, and we wanted to dive a little bit more behind the scenes to see what makes London Art Fair the success it is.

Ana Bruque is on her fifth year in the pivotal role of Gallery Relations & Project Manager at London Art Fair, consistently ensuring it’s smooth delivery to the public. We were keen to get Ana’s unique insight into her involvement in the fair’s annual arrival.

Ana Bruque, Gallery Relations and Project Manager at London Art Fair

LAF only runs for a few days every year, but we know there’s plenty to do behind the scenes all year round – can you give us a brief overview of your role at London Art Fair?

There’s a lot of work behind the scenes and throughout the year to be able to deliver London Art Fair. After the Fair finishes, it is mainly the Gallery Relations team that carries on producing the next edition of London Art Fair until late May when we get together with our Selection Committee to confirm galleries for the upcoming edition. 

In brief, the core part of my role is client relationships, however, my responsibilities at the Fair range from establishing exhibitor targets and launching of the Fair application campaign to confirming curators and content for the Fair. As Gallery Relations & Projects Manager, my main objective is to act as an ambassador of the Fair all year round, ensuring that we provide excellent customer service for all affiliated galleries. But we also do our best in reaching out to new galleries to extend the scope of the Fair to a worldwide panorama and get new audiences to familiarise with what’s on offer.

“Seeing all the artworks hung on the walls before opening to the public is priceless!”

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be the Gallery Relations and Project Manager at London Art Fair.

2020 is an exciting year for me as it marks my fifth year here in London!  I am originally from Ecuador and ventured to the UK back in 2015 to undertake a Master’s degree in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. By then, little did I know that London was going to become my home. 

I have an academic background in Art History and Photography. Before joining London Art Fair I had the opportunity to work as a Gallery Assistant for Maddox Arts, which is a small gallery founded by Mario Palencia that promoted emerging artists based on geometric abstraction, constructivism and photography (most of the artists were from Latin America). I also worked as PR Coordinator for Artrooms, which is an independent art fair for artists without representation of galleries, whose model did not charge artists for exhibiting and was developed in rooms of Hotel Amelia White House.

During this time I was working almost every day of the week and, whilst I can’t say it was easy, it was worth it! I believe that these two working experiences, plus my Master’s Degree and dissertation on the promotion of Art from Latin America in London, were appealing for London Art Fair and allowed me to join their team as Gallery Relation Executive in 2017. From then onwards, and thanks to the unconditional support of the London Art Fair team and Fair Director Sarah Monk, I was promoted last year to my current role.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

This is 100% being onsite and delivering the Fair! It is just fantastic to see all the stands coming to life and finally being able to see all the artworks in the flesh that our galleries were so excited to share with us and talk about over the past year. Seeing all the artworks hung on the walls before opening to the public is priceless!

London Art Fair 2019 – Domobaal Stand as part of Dialogues

Have you ever bought a piece of artwork for yourself? If so, what was it and where did it go?

I have a tiny collection of 7 works of art and currently secretly thinking about what to buy next!

I purchased my first work in 2018 from Ani Molnar Gallery at Art Brussels, a small but beautiful work by artist Sári Ember, winner of the Leopold Bloom Award (2019) and the Campari Art Prize of Artissima (2017) – from then onwards I just couldn’t stop. Since then I have acquired works by Kara Chin, Emma Fineman, Naho Kawabe, Yuta Segawa, Katharine Morling, and the latest a piece by Lizan Freijsen.

Most of the artworks that I currently hold have been purchased whilst visiting art fairs – due to work, I go to a fair amount of them around the year. The only works I have purchased directly from gallery space were the pieces by Yuta Segawa, from Flow Gallery, and Emma Fineman, from Public Gallery.

“New technologies in the past few years have definitely altered the ways in which the industry is buying and selling art.”

Excluding LAF, of course, which art fair did you enjoy most this year and why?

There are two art fairs in my calendar that I absolutely love and cannot miss: LISTE, mainly due to the huge amount of new, young galleries, artists profiles and tendencies that I keep on discovering there year on year and COLLECT, as I am quite fond of modern craft and its proliferation into the contemporary art landscape.

Working so closely with galleries, have you noticed any threats to the traditional gallery model?

New technologies in the past few years have definitely altered the ways in which the industry is buying and selling art. Working closely with galleries, I have noticed that most of them are putting significant financial effort in building a strong online presence, either via online marketplaces or by promotional platforms like Instagram, their own websites, or all of them at the same time. Whilst, without a doubt, these are thrilling changes in the market, incorporating all of these platforms is adding a considerable amount to the long list of fixed expenses that galleries already have as part of brick-and-mortar operations and art fair calendars. This being said, I believe that one of the biggest challenges for galleries in the coming years will be balancing these operational costs and embracing new models of “physical” presence. I am personally quite intrigued on how Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) might post a solution for our industry.

Is there anything that you’re particularly proud of about LAF20?

I am extremely proud and excited about our Platform section, presenting Threading Forms curated by Candida Stevens, which will be bringing to the fore a selection of galleries capturing the breadth of different artists working in textiles. Participating galleries include Arusha Gallery, Oxford Ceramic Gallery, Cavaliero Finn, Atelier Weftfaced and Candida Stevens Gallery. The section will also showcase live demonstration throughout the week of tapestry by West Dean and machine and hand stitching by Alice Kettle.

“…the fair holds a very fortunate position in the heart of Londoners, collectors and the art market calendar.”

How did the idea of LAF Platform come to be?

Platform is the youngest section of London Art Fair and aims to focus on a single distinct theme every year. By launching Platform, we were hoping to provide our visitors with fresh insight in trending mediums, movements or curatorial explorations, whilst also creating opportunities to welcome new and niche galleries, who trade in only one type of medium or category, by offering a valuable opportunity for artist promotion, cost-effective stands and focused PR campaigns.

London Art Fair 2019 – Sylvia Powell as part of Platform

What do you think it is that makes London Art Fair stand out from the others?

Without a doubt it’s their strong heritage, having been in the market for more 30 years; the fair holds a very fortunate position in the heart of Londoners, collectors and the art market calendar.

What advice would you give to galleries wanting to present at LAF?

Make sure that the visual elements of your application are on point! A lot of galleries have great artists and fantastic holdings, however, they struggle to translate that into their applications and curatorial texts, which is ultimately what the Selection Committee will be looking at to inform their decisions.

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your role?

This is hard for me because at the same time it is the most enjoyable part of my role, and that is managing the expectations of almost 130 galleries.

Get more information about past and present features of Platform, Art Projects and Dialogues.

What will the UK Contemporary Art Market look like in 2030? Make sure you don’t miss your chance to get tickets for the Future of the Art Market talk chaired by Chief Executive of Creative United, Mary-Alice Stack.

The Future of the Art Market Report surveys the significant changes that have occurred in the contemporary art market over the past 15 years.