Get to know this deeply knowledgeable and engagingly thoughtful design specialist
Some of the rarest, most titillating and sought-after design objects ever made have passed through Simon Andrews’s hands over the course of his professional life. Following a few early years as an antique dealer, he joined Christie’s London in 1994 and went on to establish the Modern Design department there. He’s responsible for putting together a series of design sales that have served as benchmarks to current markets.
This International Senior Specialist of Design at Christie’s is an internationally recognized expert in his field, with broad and diverse experience across all mediums and regions of modern and contemporary design. He’s served on Design Miami/’s Vetting Committee since the first show and is frequently seen on the lecture circuit. He has published multiple essays on modernist and mid-century design. So, what does someone who has seen more and knows more than most do when he heads to Miami? “Visit the Wolfsonian—I am always willing to learn more about design’s capacity to influence social or political messages.” Scroll on to read more of our thoughtful conversation with Andrews.
How and when did you become interested in design?
My parents had been antiques dealers; I was certain in my destiny. My studies reflected my love for modern architecture and design, and so it was inevitable that I would fall into the mercantile world of design, working first as a dealer and antiques restorer before embarking on my current career as an auction house specialist.
Do you collect design? If so, what?
I do collect, but my process is rather more guided by the delight of being able to make new discoveries and to learn than by the pursuit of any fixed doctrine. I am as equally stimulated by artisanal craft as I might be by the conceptual use of new materials. Our home in London is a mixture of British and American mid-century design, folk art, and 18th-century furniture. I prefer not to attach too much distinction to these various themes—all are expressive and innovative in their way.
How are you currently staying busy?
In my role as an auction house specialist, there are always multiple projects ongoing and at times overlapping—which makes for an energetic, lively, and stimulating existence. However, I do always find time to explore tangential or personal interests. I am currently fascinated by the evolution of the notion of collecting throughout the modern era.
Is there an era or designer that you feel is overlooked?
I would have to suggest the brilliantly eccentric Anglo-Irish architect, designer, and interior stylist Max Clendinning. He was active primarily in London during the 1960s but sadly has been long since forgotten by critics. He is on my mind as he recently passed away. His furniture was other-worldly, and his interiors always five years ahead of what any of his contemporaries were thinking. What furniture of his remains today exists in a handful of examples—his style was far too peculiar for contemporary tastes.
What is your favorite part of Design Miami/?
Without question, it is seeing the presentations that the gallerists have chosen to create, having stimulating conversations as we catch up on the intervening months, and feeling the energy of the show as the doors open for the first time.
If you could visit any designer (historic or contemporary) in their studio, who would you choose and why?
Charles and Ray Eames at their home in Pacific Palisades. Their home was simply another version of their Venice studio and celebrated their unswerving yet understated drive for innovation, anchored by humanity and subtle intellect.
You are considered an expert in design. Is there something else you wish you knew more about?
I try not to think of design as simply being represented by 3D objects. So whenever I am in Miami, I visit the Wolfsonian—I am always willing to learn more about design’s capacity to influence social or political messages.
If you could own any one object, what would it be?
Oddly enough, there is nothing that I really aspire to own. Through my work I get to handle a great diversity of material. Simply having it pass through my hands and being able to study it is often enough. But if someone were to deposit a Carlo Mollino Arabesque Table on my doorstep, I would accept it gratefully.
Is there a designer you currently have your eye on?
Not a specific designer, no. Rather it is the cultural and social zeitgeist of our times that I have my eye on. I would be motivated to learn more about the new generation of designers and creators that are responding eloquently to our modern times.
What’s on your desk right now?
A forest of vintage Anglepoise Lamps—all flea market finds—and a Timo Sarpaneva Orchid Vase from 1954. Finnish glass is for me still the most poetic of all the glass produced in the 20th century. Behind my desk is a 1961 Braun RT20 Radio designed by Dieter Rams. Its valves give a deep and soft tone quite unlike a modern digital radio.
If you were new to collecting design, where would you start?
Talk to people, dealers, and other collectors, and get a sense of what might best stimulate you. Most of us in this community are driven by enthusiasm and are willing to share, so don’t be timid. And then, as you build your senses, reinforce that with hard knowledge gleaned from books, exhibitions, and the physical handling of objects. Collecting design should be a rewarding and inspiring experience, so embrace objects that communicate to you and that you will enjoy living with.
What do you see as the future of design?
We need to get away from thinking of design as a catch-all for 3D objects. What motivated the creation of those objects in the first instance was the desire to make changes that were for the better, to allow better human engagement, either through efficiency or through aesthetic stimulation. Design therefore is a way of thinking—not merely an act of creation. On this basis, I would like to hope that the critical processes that guide good product design will be increasingly applied to guiding and improving social behavior and interaction in our society as a whole. ◆