Introducing Claridge Fine Art
“Art has been the only thing I’ve cared about since I was eight years old.” I'm talking to Simon Claridge, contemporary fine artist and founder of Claridge Fine Art, about what art means to him, personally. “I realised I had half a talent for art in my teenage years,” Simon continues. “I came back to it in my twenties and, bar my family, art is what I live for.”
For those unacquainted with Simon, he is widely acknowledged as one of Britain’s most sought-after contemporary artists - his work having caught the attention of celebrity stylist, Rachel Zoe, and fashion designer, Henry Holland to name but a few. Simon’s work is currently available in 33 Castle Galleries across the UK, as well as in his own fine art gallery in Winchester town centre. And now, Simon’s newest venture, Claridge Fine Art, has been welcomed into the fold at CRYSTLSD.
Simon studied Fine Art at the University of Reading and, upon graduating, worked in an art gallery in Windsor. “While working in the gallery, and without prior agreement from the owner, I put some of my own work in the window,” Simon confesses. “I was so fed up of seeing the work that was already in there, so I brought my own and, by lunchtime, I’d sold it all.” Luckily, the gallery owner was an understanding fellow and, off the back of Simon’s risk-taking, Simon was taken on by fine art publisher, Washington Green Fine Art Group, who still represent him to this day.
So, what inspired Simon to set up Claridge Fine Art? “I really enjoy what I do day-to-day,” Simon says, “but I wanted to explore different works that I haven’t done before. Also, I’ve been lucky to meet lots of other artists, whose work hadn’t yet been profiled, and I wanted to showcase their work, too.”
Currently available at Claridge Fine Art is a selection of works by six contemporary artists, alongside a mixture of limited edition and original works by Simon, himself. Simon’s process of deciding who to showcase in the gallery is a very organic one: “I go with my gut reaction,” he explains, adding, “because the gallery is very new, I am showcasing those whose artworks I know.”
Louise Dear, for example, is a painter whom Simon has known for over 10 years. “We’re great friends, [Louise and I] and she introduced me to Jana Nicole… it’s always a friend of a friend, isn’t it?!” Simon laughs. Art, Simon notes, is a lot like collecting records: “If you like that record, why don’t you listen to this one? It’s very similar to that: Have a look at this person’s work; do you like that? Then you’ll love this.”
“I really enjoy having the art gallery, because I get to meet, and get to know, the people who buy the work, and who enjoy having the work,” Simon notes. “I also have the privilege of showing and representing the work of other artists who I admire.”
It’s quite clear to me that Simon gets a real sense of joy from what he does, not only at Claridge Fine Art, but also as an artist for Washington Green. “I’ve got two favourite bits in the week,” Simon says. “One, is a lovely person shaking my hand, whether they’ve bought anything or not, and saying, ‘I like what you’ve done.’ The other, is when a picture comes off the easel or the silk screen bench, and it looks stunning. That is exciting.”
Looking around Claridge Fine Art, it’s obvious that it is owned by Simon. The works on show are very much bound by a contemporary aesthetic; nothing looks out of place alongside each other. “I had a client, who came in recently, who had bought quite a lot of my pictures before but hadn’t seen the gallery. He turned to me, and said, “This place is so you!” Simon laughs. “I took that as a compliment!”
The bulk of Simon’s work, of course, is represented by Washington Green, and sold via Castle Galleries, and he is very mindful of that. When asked what his aspirations are for the coming year, and beyond, Simon answers both with his Claridge Fine Art hat on and with his artist hat on. “I’d like to do another large license deal… whether it be [with] 20th Century, Playboy or elsewhere. And, I’d like to do at least two shows before Christmas in the gallery.”
To aid in the process of raising the profile of Claridge Fine Art, Simon drafted in CRYSTLSD. Simon was “lucky enough” to have met CRYSTLSD founder, Laura Rothwell, a long while ago, and they got on like a house on fire. “I know that Laura does some really good work with other clients in the industry, so I was excited to speak to her again [about Claridge Fine Art],” Simon explains. “When we got back in touch, what she said really resonated with me, and I was really happy to continue working with Laura at CRYSTLSD.”
The feeling, of course, is mutual. The team at CRYSTLSD are huge fans of Simon’s works, and we can’t wait to tell the world about Claridge Fine Art. “I absolutely adore what I do,” Simon concludes. “I adore creating new imagery, and I adore showcasing imagery.” Seems like Simon’s childhood aspiration of becoming an artist worked out just fine, indeed.