Gallerist Timothy Taylor: ‘Style is the ambition and freedom to follow your own path’
My personal style signifier is my age-disguising beard.
The last thing I bought and loved was an Antonia Showering painting. Every time I see it, I have a different reaction, which is part of her power – she’s got a way of evoking memories and feelings that get lodged in your gut. That’s the mark of a great artist.
The place that means a lot to me is Basil’s Bar on Mustique, a spectacular island in the Caribbean. This bar, which sticks out into the sea, is a great place to go with the whole family. I have children who are in their teens and I have children in their 20s and in this particular place, everybody seems to be very, very happy. It’s rare to find anywhere you can keep every single member of your family happy at the same time.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is Palais des Thés, Sencha Ariake tea bags – courtesy of The Peninsula New York. I travel a lot, and so I like to try to keep things as simple as possible, and stay at The Peninsula whenever I can find one.
The best books I’ve read in the past year are 26 Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, on Audible. They are spectacular to listen to as you’re wandering around Hyde Park with a dog. I heard Lee interviewed by Jeremy Paxman recently, and Paxman was asking him about his style of literature. He said it’s very difficult to design a Rolls-Royce, but it’s extremely difficult to design a Ford Escort. That kind of sums it up.
The podcast I’m listening to is Katy Hessel’s The Great Women Artists. She is energetic, enthusiastic and infectious in her appreciation of the subject.
My style icon is Alex Katz. He’s a real New York character – he lived and worked in the same spartan SoHo studio through much of the 20th century in a very monastic, disciplined way. When I talk about style, I don’t mean clothes – I could live out of a suitcase. What I care about is that kind of ambition and freedom to follow your own path. Alex Katz has created his style out of the bones of a city.
And the best gift I’ve received is a personalised wallet from Anya Hindmarch. My wife [Lady Helen Taylor] gave me this wallet, in which she inscribed the words, in her own handwriting: “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours.”
The last music I downloaded was The Smile, “Skrting on the Surface”. It’s layered, so you never get the same thing twice and you never get the whole thing at once. That’s something I’ve always sought out in the music I care most about and in the art I care most about.
In my fridge you’ll always find Mr Vikki’s King Naga chilli spread that I buy in the Tebay service station on the M6. It’s grown locally, in Penrith. It’s a spectacular experience – really, really hot.
Some of my best ideas have come while fishing. Every year I fish the River Dee in Scotland for salmon. I’m obviously not a very good fisherman because in 21 years I’ve never caught a salmon. But the experience is meditative, very therapeutic. It’s quite physical. It’s this amazing river – it changes every day.
I’ve recently discovered Sahara Longe, a London-based artist we’ve begun representing. She combines bright abstract panes with contemporary characters, all with the rich finish of an Old Master.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my Concept2 rowing machine. It has a small computer built into it, so every time you row, you’re rowing against your own previous statistics and figures, and you’re rowing against yourself.
The exhibition that changed everything for me was A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1981. People in the arts like to say painting’s dead, and in the ’80s other types of media were springing up: it really did feel like painting might be yesterday’s news. This show was a rebuke to all that, proving that painting could be as fresh and relevant now as it was 100 years ago. I was just a young man – it was the first time I saw German artists like [Anselm] Kiefer and [Gerhard] Richter. The show was curated with such energy and insistence, typical of the curator Norman Rosenthal. It opened up a new world for me.
An indulgence I would never forgo is bordeaux and burgundy wine, a spectacular selection of which Corney & Barrow holds for me. When we were married, we were given some wonderful wine that it happened to be storing. It started a relationship and my interest and knowledge has grown tremendously through its guidance and help. So has my consumption.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was Maharishi trousers. It’s a small brand in Soho that I was introduced to by one of my sons. It’s streetwear, so I have to be a bit careful not to pretend or try too hard, but actually, I think I manage to own them.
An object I would never part with is my new Eddie Martinez “Blockhead” cap that he gave me recently. My kids will try and take it from me when they find out. There’s something very Cubist about his Blockhead series.
My favourite building is 15 Bolton Street, my new gallery in London. It had been a townhouse, and I was very aware that it had to look like it was a gallery without taking away from the personality of the building itself. So I left all of the detailing and the cornicing. I think it’s a very nice balance between the two.
My favourite room in my house is the staircase. We built this house 25 years ago, and it was very modern and it’s got this incredible freestanding metal staircase that looks like it’s unsupported, rising through the whole thing.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Philip Guston. He answers the big question: what makes paint so compelling? He captures an emotional experience in a physical medium, but he was also unafraid to tell the truth about the inequities of society as he saw it. The issues that his paintings grapple with – political extremism, psychological turbulence, the border between abstraction and figuration – remain extremely relevant today.
The grooming staple I’m never without is anything by Kiehl’s – I like the packaging.
The best advice I’ve ever received came when I first opened my gallery, and I was advised by a sage senior art gallery owner to always buy a work from every exhibition. Given the programme, I would now have one of the finest collections in the country. Did I follow this advice? Sadly not.