Five minutes with Simon Stewart
At Collect Art Fair 2023 at Somerset House in London, our co-founders Jo and Scott chatted collectibles, creativity and colour with musician-turned-gallerist Simon Stewart, founder of Fitzrovia’s Charles Burnand Gallery. Simon sat down with us to return the favour, discussing the highlights of his career to date, social media’s impact on the industry and some of his favourite pieces.
Read Simon's responses below:
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU START YOUR CAREER IN DESIGN? WAS YOUR PATH STRAIGHT FORWARD? DO YOU CREDIT ANYONE WITH INSPIRING YOUR JOURNEY?
I spent 17 years working as a professional musician, recording for film and TV as well as teaching students who were studying to become professional musicians. The industry was changing so fast and work was becoming scarcer and scarcer that I decided that I would follow my other passion of art and design. My mother had an illustrious career as a stylist and florist… her first client was Elizabeth Taylor… so I decided to join her in a new venture and opened a lifestyle design store in London.
SHARE THE KEY MOMENTS THAT LEAD TO THE SUCCESS OF CHARLES BURNAND GALLERY.
I have many career highlights but I think amongst the top has been designing and selling pieces to art foundations. Major art collectors are always a very positive validation of the choices I make for the gallery. The other, of course, was opening our incredible gallery space in Fitzrovia last year.
HAS SOCIAL MEDIA HAD AN IMPACT ON DESIGN SHOWS?
Social media has changed everything. It changes the speed at which we communicate and can be such a powerful tool to get information to a global platform. That said, the speed at which images can now be shared can make people lazy and in turn potentially not attend a gallery preview or fair opening, which is of course such a shame as there is nothing like seeing a piece in person.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE IN THE FUTURE AS A MAKER AND/OR GALLERIST?
The role of a maker is to be curious and uninhibited and perfect the quality of their craft. The role of a gallerist is to nurture the maker but most of all, to challenge the viewer. I find myself in this curious place that straddles all of the above – there is something exceptionally pleasing when you curate a special moment in the gallery or at a fair and watch people engage and come alive, when they view the pieces and have a spontaneous reaction.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR AESTHETIC?
Brutalist, fun, challenging and curious.
IF YOU COULD OWN ANY ARTWORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
My current obsession is a piece that we exhibited at Collect by Fredrik Nielsen, tiled, You Are A Hideous Thing Inside. Its made from approximately 50kg of glass and is a cross between a jug, a sculpture and molten piece of glass. It has this incredible movement to it and on first inspection impossible to tell which material its made from. I love that under the completely gold surface there is a work of art that has incredible movement and form, containing many colours of glass. The fact that Nielsen has chosen to obscure all this beauty means we will never know if it is beautiful or not inside but from the outside has this beguiling beauty.
ASIDE FROM THE ARTISTS YOU REPRESENT, PLEASE NAME THREE DESIGNERS OR MAKERS THAT YOU RATE AND WHO SHOULD BE ON OUR RADAR?
I am obsessed with the works of Eleanor Lakelin, the knowledge and passion that goes into her work is truly world class, the fact that she works with wood from trees that have been felled through decay carries such a poetic narrative. Every time I have tried to buy at a preview the works have literally been purchased from under my nose!!! Sarah Sze creates works that have an incredible energy which given that her works are static have a transformative property. Leora Honeyman’s handling of her materials is second to none, her explorations through digital to analogue result in otherworldly creations, I love them.
YOU RECENTLY EXHIBITED AT COLLECT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS AS A SELLING PLATFORM AND WHAT'S THE VALUE COMPARED TO YOUR OWN GALLERY?
Collect is such an inclusive fair and I have visited many years prior to exhibiting. It attracts buyers from all over the world who appreciate and want to celebrate the hand of the creator and artist. There is craft behind every piece that our artists design and make and so I enjoy having that conversation with the fair visitors.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A DESIGNER OR DESIGN PIECE?
I love to be challenged in a positive manner, so any artist or designer who is willing to push boundaries or experiment with materials and form to create a functional piece will always get my attention.
See more from Charles Burnand Gallery below.