We catch up with the brand director of Clarendon Fine Art, Rachel Simkiss, to discuss a decade of growth, demand for galleries, and what you should consider when buying art
How long have you worked at Clarendon Fine Art?
I’ve just celebrated my 11-year anniversary. I started when it launched in 2010 and have watched the brand grow into the largest gallery group in the world. It is a very exciting journey!
What does your day to day job entail?
Managing all aspects of the Clarendon Fine Art brand – partnerships such as our exclusive with Althorp House, collaborations with other luxury brands like Bollinger, Comitti Boats UK & Caribbean – boats and charters, and Zepiair private jets. I have a portfolio of artists that I have fostered, along with a number of VIP clients that I’ve helped develop their art collections over the years.
I used to cover the Dover Street gallery back in the day when I edited The Resident, so have tracked the growth of Clarendon Fine Art. Are you amazed at how many galleries you now have?
We have 22 galleries now, with more opening in the next 12 months. It’s been an incredible and successful journey for the brand, led by our fantastic CEO Helen Swaby who started the business with just one gallery. We have our sister galleries in Whitewall Galleries, so we’re managing 68 in total!
Why has there been a demand for what you offer?
Our CEO started the business having had a bad experience when buying art for her home, and wanted to provide clients with an enjoyable and exciting experience without the elitism. And that’s been our mantra from day one, and holds us in good stead today. We believe that art is for everyone and it’s transformational, and therefore we want as many people as possible to enjoy collecting art.
How do you decide on what areas to open in?
We want to have a footprint across the UK to start with. We also look at the demographic in a town, and where we feel we can add value to the high street and to the community experience.
Looking at Beaconsfield and the two Marlow galleries, Marlow Contemporary is the newest of the three isn’t it? Why did you want to open a second gallery in Marlow?
Well, it is really down to client demand. We’ve seen an explosion of amazing artists on the contemporary market, and we’re representing the best of the best. It deserves its own space, and we know that people visiting our gallery in Marlow are loving it! The existing gallery has the space for a fantastic stable of artists too – so really we’re catering for a multiple range of tastes and collections.
What kind of artists will we find at both Marlow galleries?
In our Clarendon Fine Art gallery, we have a real mix of modern, post war and contemporary, but in Marlow Contemporary, it’s all contemporary, emerging and established talents influenced heavily by pop and street art.
What do offer at the Beaconsfield gallery?
Beaconsfield is similar to the original Marlow gallery – so a mix of modern, post war and contemporary here.
How busy have you been since re-opening in April?
We’ve been really busy throughout the whole of lockdown. We have some very loyal clients and good relationships with them. Due to them spending time at home it’s actually been one of our busy periods. People saw art as a way to transform their homes and their lives, and actually because they’ve been spending so much time at home, they’ve probably realised that some rooms have missed art.
What shows do you have on at each?
We’ve just had Mayfair Art Weekend at our flagship gallery in Dover Street. But we will be opening for shows in September with the very talented contemporary artist Mr Brainwash, and we hope that will be the start of many artist tours. We have just launched our new Clarendon Fine Art website so like to keep everyone updated there.
Which artists do you personally love at the moment?
Personally, I love Mike Rumsby, Toby Mulligan and Mr Brainwash as well as Patrick Rubenstein. I’m probably exactly the right description of our galleries – in other words I love a mix of modern, post war and contemporary!
For someone looking to buy a piece of art for the first time, what tips do you have?
The first thing to think about when buying art is that it’s going to be hanging on your wall and you’ll be seeing it every day. Buy something you love. Buy something that ‘talks to you’, that you can connect with as it’s really personal.
Do you build relationships with your clients over time?
Yes – 1 million per cent!
What are you looking forward to in the months to come?
Looking forward to welcoming all our clients – new and previous – back into all our clients across the country, so we can do what we do best. Personal appearances with our artists to meet clients on a personal basis, as well as exciting and emerging new artists that we are constantly looking for and bringing into our galleries.