Sim Takhar

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This month’s Mover & Shaker is co-founder of The Old Bank Vault, Sim Takhar. Working with independent suppliers, emerging and established artists to curate versatile collections to suit various personalities, The Old Bank Vault is situated in London’s “creative corner”, Hackney. Marguerite spoke with Sim to learn more about her beginnings in Architecture, her love for meeting and engaging with new artists and her respect for Yana Peel and her forward thinking programme at the Serpentine gallery.

Have you always worked in the Arts?

I studied Architecture at University, with the wild idea of being the next Zaha Hadid! Six months into my first year at University I left to work as a CAD technician in a practice I had previously done work experience in. It turned out that as much as I loved to look at Architecture, pursuing a career in it just wasn’t for me. I spent a lot of my twenties just trying to figure out what I wanted to do, flitting between various different roles constantly dabbling in projects in fashion and photography to satisfy my artistic craving. Eventually I created my perfect role and so The Old Bank Vault was born!

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Can you tell me what your role consists of at The Old Bank Vault?

I co-founded The Old Bank Vault in 2017 as a start-up gallery. My role consists of everything from curating exhibitions, new business development and marketing to organising events as well as clearing up after them! 

When did you become a member of Marguerite?

October last year [2018] and I’m loving it.

Can you tell me your favourite Marguerite event of 2018?

I loved the one at Fortnum and Mason with Victoria Siddall, Greg Muir and Nicholas Cullinan. I read Greg Muir’s Lucky Kunst when I was 16 and fantasised about being a part of the art scene in the era of the Young British Artists’s (YBA’s) Movement. To have the opportunity to meet Gregor and hear from such an awesome line up of art royalty was a great experience. 

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What would your one piece of advice be to a young female starting their career in the Arts?

You don’t have to have a degree in Fine Art to have a career in the arts – hard work and determination pay off so if you want it bad; go for it and don’t look back! If you want to learn about something: read about it, visit it, talk to people about it - don’t wish you had chosen that subject at school etc. It’s never too late to learn something new.

What part of your role do you enjoy most?

I love to meet people and build relationships - I have definitely got the East End trait of talking until the cows come home. Meeting new artists and learning about their processes and stories behind why pieces were created is always very exciting. Relaying that to customers who go on to house these artworks in their homes is so rewarding.

I also love curating collections – it’s so exciting to see what artists have been working on and selecting pieces that I think would work well in the gallery.

Do you think that Hackney is still an epicentre for the emerging art and creative scenes in London?

I think that Hackney is an epicentre now more than it ever has been. There is constantly a new place opening that enables the community and visitors to participate in and appreciate the arts. Hackney has definitely earned its title as the creative corner of London. Artists are constantly finding new ways of expressing themselves on the street and in galleries regardless of the obstacles in their way like hugely inflated rent rates – I do fear that the developments going up in Hackney are forcing artists to relocate further away to the outskirts of London where they will take their creativity with them. The developments are in some way great for the area but I think developers need to appreciate they are building in an already established community and the community is what makes people want to live in these areas. It is a pivotal time, we can only hope that galleries like us can continue to represent artists in these areas.

If you could have four artists to dinner, dead or alive, who would you invite?

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Cindy Sherman - the way she has got into the minds of so many different people and then capturing that so well through a photograph is just brilliant. She often shot alone in her studio so I’d be very interested in knowing what it was like to assume so many roles – photographer, stylist, model…

Gregor Muir -  just because I’d love to hear more stories about the YBA’s and their humble beginnings.

L.S. Lowry - he was the first artist I learnt about at school when I was about 6! There’s something magical about his paintings and I imagine he was quite a magical person. I’d love to ask him if when he was painting all those people, did he imagine what each and every one of their personalities were like, similar to a writer getting into the heads of the characters they write about – he captures the body language of each individual beautifully.

Amy Winehouse – she was an old soul trapped in a person having to grow up in a very confused time – her art came in the form of poetry and a phenomenal voice. She was so raw and honest about who she was and so candid about sharing her thoughts which is something we should all be but ultimately she felt like she wasn’t accepted.

I haven’t considered what the dynamic between my guests would be like, but I imagine it would be a great night! 

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Are there any galleries or institutions whose exhibition/events programme you respect most in London?

I was very inspired by the recent Marguerite event at the Serpentine Galleries, where we had the opportunity to hear Grace Wales Bonner and Yana Peel in conversation about the current exhibition ‘A Time for New Dreams’.  I love that such a well-established and respected gallery is always so open to exploring new ideas and being at the forefront of innovation, never afraid to step outside their comfort zone, exploring various art forms and bringing them together in one space. 

On the other hand I adore the old school romance of the V&A and its dedication to putting on the most stunning retrospectives of artists and designers. It’s always so magical and never fails to remind me of how lucky we are to have such beautiful institutions on our door step.

You work with a diverse selection of artists at The Old Bank Vault - can you tell me how you select the artists you work with?

Since we are such a new gallery and new to the industry it started off with instinct, working with artists whose work I personally admired for their techniques and stories – it was imperative that a connection was made, it was helpful for me to work with artists that are willing to support me as much as I am them!

It still feels like a very much instinctual process but as a business I do now take a more commercial view after getting to know my customers and understanding what they want.

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Can you tell me about some of the projects/shows you will be working on for 2019?

We started the year with our current show ‘For the Love of Art’ which depicts artists’ take on love and relationships with things, places and people they love.

Our first solo show will be with Raymond Salvatore Harmon at the end of March which coincides with the start of British Summer Time. We will be showing a selection of Raymond’s abstract paintings curated in a fun and interactive way.

We are also working on an ongoing anthology about Hackney Road: its past, present and what the future holds for it – this will culminate in a photographic exhibition towards the end of the year of portraits of the people that represent Hackney Road. The photos are taken by an amazing group of local photographers. We are very excited to be working on this project which is somewhat of a passion project and I can’t wait to see the exhibition and book come together.

Want more? Check out The Old Bank Vault here!
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Words by Lara Monro and photography by Luke Fullalove