5 Minutes with... Simon Stewart, Founder of Charles Burnand Gallery

Words by
Andy Morris

17th June 2022

The curator behind a stunning new space in London’s Fitzrovia discusses his love of Gucci, his distrust of NFTs and why he is so particular about his tea when he travels.

Simon Stewart, Founder of Charles Burnand Gallery

What makes Charles Burnand Gallery unique?
We have a rich history designing and developing pieces of furniture and lighting, pushing boundaries bringing materials together to make extraordinary pieces.  We use all this experience to help advise our artists when they are either designing or making their pieces. It is a truly collaborative process that we are very open and honest about with clients and collectors alike.  The fact that the client has such immediate access to the artists and that the process is so collaborative, sets us apart from other galleries.  

What do you think the next big trend in contemporary art is?
There continues to be more of a blend between what is considered art.  More and more artists work across mediums, digital, performance, NFT, product design, filmmaking, etc.  This is great for us as the blend between art and design is where we sit comfortably. I also feel there is a climate of increased activism and reactions to current social and political climates by artists themselves.

Where do you stand on NFTs?
I am yet to be convinced on this, in part because there is a lot of grey matter in terms of copyright, intellectual property ownership and legal rights with a file.  I don’t like that the legal rights conveyed of an NFT can be uncertain especially of something that can be of a very high value…I want to know that if something belongs to me, its my property. The block chain does prove that you own something, but due to the digital nature of it, copying it is easy. It does allow anyone anywhere to give a go at putting their art out there, which is a great open and inclusive space, but then success often occurs as a direct result of hype.  It can be lead by a collective trend and it seems people just want to own it for investment purposes only, rather than genuinely loving work and wanting to own it.

What's been your best recent fashion purchase?
A Gucci shirt - the quality is incredible and I love the current direction that the brand is moving, its so fresh and the collaborations are inspired.  I have a huge weakness for shoes and trainers…I recently purchased some limited edition, high-tops from Celine that are silver, I love them and get compliments wherever I go every time I wear them.

What's your favourite travel accessory?
I am very particular about my tea, I blend Fortnum and Mason breakfast tea with earl grey classic and I can’t start the day without it, no matter where I am.  I have a travel tea set, which is always the first item I pack.

What is your favourite coffee table book of the moment?
Its actually a book filled entirely with the works of my friend Robert Stilin. Titled after his name, and features projects that he has worked over the years, its like a design bible.  He’s a master and I am truly inspired by his creativity, and seemingly effortless interiors.  His understanding of historical design and art is second to none and this is so apparent when you look at his work, I’d recommend it to anyone.

As a trained musician, what album would you recommend and why?
Straight off the bat, it would be a recording of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic in 1964.  I have it on vinyl and was one of the first classical recordings that I owned as a teenager.  The work is so challenging as a performer and also as a listener but is truly electrifying to listen to, I’d take this to a desert Island.  I’d also have to take Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ album, its a classic and I still believe that pop music from the 80’s is the best.

Where do you go in London to be inspired?
I’m a patron at a few galleries - I love the Tate Museums, V&A, Sarah Myerscough Gallery, National Gallery. I enjoy walking around the South Bank Centre and along Embankment and soaking up the architecture - the view from Waterloo Bridge is beyond inspiring especially with the ever changing London skyline

Which TV do you love?
Anything with Sir David Attenborough, and dare I say it, I am addicted to Netflix… documentaries, RuPaul’s Drag Race, the list is endless.  I love that I can tune in when I have jet-lag and can’t sleep, just picking up where I left off no matter where I am in the world.

What is your favourite interiors shop and why?
Roman and William Guild in NYC, Flair in Florence and Perfumer H in London where I regularly stock up on fragrances for the home.

What is your favourite restaurant and why?
I live in Marylebone and tend not to move that far away from the area when dining in London.  A regular haunt and think my favourite is Chiltern Firehouse, the food is consistently good, a world class wine list and very attentive service.  Yoshino, in Piccadilly is a hidden gem and we always take friends visiting from overseas to sample the delights especially the Chocolate Sorbet which is truly world-class.  I enjoy dining at any of Angela Hartnett’s restaurants and of course any of our friend Tom Kerridge’s establishments.

Which artist has surprised you most recently?
Of course I am biased, but Caleb Zipperer and Pierre Bonnefille have in the last week shared incredible ideas for some pieces that we are making later this year. Their creativity has really upped to another level. I am so excited to see Theaster Gates, work Black Chapel at the Serpentine gallery; to have an artist instead of an architect be selected for the pavilion is monumental.

What is your favourite hotel and why?
I have two, always top of the list is Locanda al Colle, a guest house in Northern Tuscany which belongs to my very dear friend Riccardo Barsottelli.  The property is full of exquisite art and collectable design pieces.  Its stunning and for any appreciator of mid-century-modern design, its a must visit.  The second is Trisara, in Phuket, Thailand.  Its a series of private villas that are nestled into the hillside overlooking the Andaman Sea - the restaurant at the resort is incredible and the banana flower salad on the menu is the ultimate world-class healthy comfort food. Divine.

What holiday destination would you recommend and why?
Anywhere in Italy, the food…I have never had a bad meal in Italy…ever, the architecture, the people, the art, the climate…need I go on?

What does luxury mean to you? 
Exclusivity - one of a kind