People

Steve Lazarides

Steve Lazarides is a world-leading urban art curator, responsible for kick-starting the careers of Banksy, Jonathan Yeo and Antony Micallef.

Photography: Tara Darby

Steve Lazarides

His flagship gallery on Rathbone Place – a stone’s throw from the Stephen Street offices – is one of Fitzrovia’s best-known cultural landmarks. He brings his typically outspoken views to bear on this constantly evolving neighbourhood

“You normally can’t tell who’s important and who’s not around here — although lack of socks is an indicator. If they’re not wearing socks and they’ve got Eurotrash shoes on, they’re probably pretty wealthy”

“Charlotte Street’s perfect if we have clients who want to go out for a nice meal; same with Goodge Street. There’s a wealth of good restaurants there, like Salt Yard. Back on Charlotte Street, the food’s great at Roka”

“We have a wonderful client base, because I treat them all the same, which is like s***. We have at least 15 bona-fide billionaires on our books. They hang out because they like being at the gallery, treated like normal people rather than as walking cashpoints”

TOG

“We recently staged two unauthorised Banksy retrospectives, in Amsterdam and Melbourne. Each had 75 works in it. There are two reasons why I do it. Firstly, Banksy’s a revisionist, he airbrushes stuff out, so without these shows, people would never get an accurate idea of what’s gone on. Secondly, some of his early pieces are more resonant now than ever. I don’t own any Banksys any more. If those were my collections, I’d have bought a small island and set up my own principality by now”

“I feel sorry for the electrical shops on Tottenham Court Road. This is where you used to go to get discount electrical goods, but Amazon has killed it dead. Bless ’em, but some things go with time”

“There aren’t a lot of people around when I get here at 7am. I drive in and park underneath the Sanderson hotel. I quite like Crussh on Eastcastle Street for a juice first thing in the morning. Lantana, the coffee shop on Charlotte Place, is brilliant. It’s not like these places with baristas trying to be rock stars — just give me my coffee, at the temperature I’ve asked for, without the attitude, and that would be great. It’s just off Charlotte Street, on a mews-y cut-through bit. Barnyard, which I think is a phenomenal restaurant, is by there as well”

“When we got here, there were three galleries in the area, and that’s going all the way down to Eastcastle Street. Now there’s a plethora of s*** art galleries that feel more like vanity projects. There are some good ones too: Stuart Shave Modern Art on Helmet Row, which has been here for years, though they’re actually moving out. Plus Alison Jacques Gallery on Berners Street”

TOG

“We opened in Fitzrovia in May 2009. We wanted to move somewhere as incongruous as possible with the art itself. At the time, the style of art we represent wasn’t taken as seriously as it is now. So ghettoising it in a place like Shoreditch would have killed it dead. Taking a bunch of street art to a 17th-century townhouse with wood-panelled walls was the exact thing people didn’t expect us to do. The rent’s not hideously ludicrous, it’s just... ludicrous”

“Wissam Al Mana, our new investor, was a client. He came by one Monday when we were closed and left his card. I phoned him up and he came back. I’ve got my cycling gear on and this guy walks in and says, ‘Hi Steve, this is my wife.’ It was Janet Jackson”

“Janet Jackson and her husband, Wissam, had seen a documentary I made with [top US street artist] Shepard Fairey on the aeroplane over. I showed them round the gallery and we kept in touch by email. Last year, the business got quite dark. So I bit the bullet and wrote an email that essentially read, ‘Dear Wissam. Feel free to tell me to f*** right off, as you must get asked all the time, but do you want to put any money into the business?’ And he did. It was
a series of seemingly random things that added up to something worthwhile”

“Fitzrovia is still just-about ‘Ad Land’, as the area was known in the 1990s, and it has the voiceover studios, so you’ll see wonderful actors like John Hannah walking down the street. There’s the Gibson Guitar Studio on Rathbone Place, so the area still has flavour to it. I’m more worried about the small restaurants and cafes. Whether increasing numbers of super- buildings will mean more independents or more chains, time will tell”