Would you know good taste if you saw it? Or would you have to have good taste to spot good taste? And how would you know if you had good taste if you weren’t sure what good taste looked like?
You see how quickly these things can get difficult. This is the circular conundrum we can all find ourselves in, in a cultural landscape as quick-moving, trend-obsessed and opinionated as our own. Thankfully, however, there are riders in the storm — beacons in the blizzard.
Every year at Gentleman’s Journal we compile our list of so-called ‘Tastemakers’ — the most influential (and tasteful) people in London’s art, design, and hospitality scenes. They are an aesthetic test-and-trace system, for want of a better phrase, to assess the cultural health of our capital. And this year they present a creative industry in fine fettle and full flight, despite the overwhelming odds.
This year, in a new but natural development, we have elected to lean-in to the ‘taste’ part of the phrase with glorious abandon. Now, restaurateurs, chefs, and hospitality honchos are on the menu alongside the usual gallerists, artists, designers and architects. They are the tastebuds of the city, after all — and often its most gratifying expression of its ingenuity and expertise. They need celebrating now more than ever, and we are happy, in our own small way, to do that here. Tuck in.
Hans-Ulrich Obrist, artistic director
Dubbed the “curator who never sleeps”, Obrist — artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries and co-editor of the Cahiers d’art — remains a revered figure in the global art world. A self-confessed workaholic, he created The Brutally Early Club in 2006, organising meetings in cafés across the city for people comfortable discussing art and quasi-philosophical ideas before 7am.
Oscar Murillo, artist
Co-winner of the 2019 Turner Prize, and an auction house favourite. His intense, powerful, visually-arresting style was on show once again in his News collection, shown at the end of last year. A vibrant voice for an anxious age.
Sadie Coles, gallerist
The punk art dealer has been at the forefront of ‘Brit Art’ since opening her breakthrough West End gallery in 1997. After spending six years working at the prestigious d’Offay gallery, working with the likes of Jeff Koons and Jasper Johns, her decision to go solo has paid off in spades, as Sadie Coles HQ continues to display and inspire artists from around the world.
Heather Phillipson, artist
Best known to many as the creator behind The End — the fly-infested cream cake sculpture on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, which she says is all about human hubris and an impending great fall.
Tracey Emin, artist
Permanently intriguing and always genuinely powerful. As Jonathan Jones writes in his recent monograph on Emin’s work: “She recaptures the past still bloody, and slams it on to canvas with a scream.”
Lawrence Van Hagen, gallerist (pictured above)
Ultra-connected young gallerist with his ear firmly to the ground. Charming, fascinating, and achingly well-dressed.
Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt, gallerists (pictured above)
A charmingly disruptive pair of young bucks making serious waves with their gallery, Unit London, Kennedy and Burt’s recent shows include works by Zandile Tshabalala, Ryan Hewett, and Amadeo Morelos. Lovely dog, too.
Damien Hirst, artist
Always present and utterly irrepressible, Hirst has re-emerged this year in the oofier reaches of the art world with a new curation of sculptures atop the frozen lake of St Moritz.
Iwan and Manuela Wirth, gallerists
Forget Paris, London or New York, Somerset is the place to go for high-class artistic flair. From their sleepy farm in Somerset, the art world’s most powerful couple, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, are still pulling the strings and checking the books in the world of high-class art dealing. Theie latest outpost, in Menorca, might just be the most intriguing yet.
Jay Jopling, gallerist
The White Cube Gallery remains a powerhouse in global art, as does Jopling’s exacting eye and formidable nous.
Nicholas Serota, artistic director
During a 29 year reign, Nicholas Serota has done more to change the way this country sees art than anyone else. Arriving at the Tate in September 1988 as director of galleries and museums, Serota transformed this faintly parochial museum into one of the most powerful forces in the international art world. He is now chair of Arts Council England and still exerting profound influence over British and international art.
Coleridge’s recent book The Glossy Years is an ode to the golden age of magazine journalism (of which he was a hugely influential architect) and a reminder of the sheer breadth of his own connections — as well as his winning way with an anecdote. The Chairman of Condé Nast Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Gilbert Trust for the Arts, NC remains a beloved, charming, and warm advocate for British creativity and heritage, wherever it appears.
Luke Edward Hall, artist (pictured, above)
Oft-emulated but never bettered, Hall’s impeccable taste has seen him collaborate recently with both Gant and Le Sirenuse. But his best project to date might be his new-ish Hôtel Les Deux Gares in Paris, which allows you to book a room inside his whimsical art deco world.
Helena Newman, Chairman and auctioneer
As Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe (and Worldwide Head of Impressionist & Modern Art), Newman is one of the most respected names at perhaps the world’s most prestigious auction house. As an auctioneer, meanwhile, she took the highest value sale ever held in London — a cool £213.9 million in March 2017.
Maria Balshaw, artistic director
The first female director in the organisation’s 120-year history, Maria Balshaw was appointed director of Tate in January 2017. A pivotal figure in Manchester’s cultural renaissance, where she oversaw a £15 million redevelopment of the Whitworth gallery, Balshaw has spoken of the need for Tate and art in general to speak to the whole of society. Unsurprisingly, the first exhibition to open under her tenure focused on what it meant to be a black artist in the US during the civil rights era, shedding light on the birth of the black power movement. Seated at the helm of one of the art world’s most coveted jobs, Balshaw clearly has a rich and progressive vision for Tate’s future.
Jussi Pylkkänen, dealer
Global president of Christie’s, the world’s biggest auction house, Jussi Pylkkänen is the suave Finnish-born, English-educated, multi-hyphenated maestro of the British and international art world. The man with the ‘million dollar pause’ has overseen some colossal sales in his tenure, one of these being Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, sold under the hammer for $400 million to become the most expensive painting ever bought.
Stefan Ratibor, artistic director
Alongside Mark Francis and Robin Vousden, Austrian prince Stefan Ratibor is one of three Gagosian directors in London who display the worlds biggest artists, living and dead, in some of the most beautiful gallery spaces in London. His partner Kadee Robbins is also the director of the much renowned Michael Werner Gallery in Mayfair, making them one of the London art world’s most powerful couples.
Ralph Rugoff, artistic director
Leading the prestigious Hayward Gallery for more than a decade, Rugoff’s intriguing and ambitious shows have focused on a diverse range of themes, from light and outsider art to humour and Brutalist architecture. In 2019. he was selected as the first ever UK-based curator of the Venice Bienniale.
Sir Anish Kapoor, artist
Known for his big, brazen sculptures, the turner-prize winning sculptor has lived and worked in London since the early 1970s. An Indian Jew with an Iraqi mother, he has said he often feels like an outsider, yet he remains a national treasure, receiving a knighthood in 2013. His 114.5-metre-high sculpture Orbit, created for the 2012 Olympic games, remains Britain’s largest piece of public art.
Conrad Shawcross, artist
The youngest living member of the Royal Academy of Arts, Conrad Shawcross is a British artist specialising in mechanical sculptures based on philosophical and scientific ideas. Crafting pieces that explore subjects lying on the borders of geometry and philosophy, physics and metaphysics, he first came to prominence with his 2004 piece The Nervous System, a large, symmetrical, working loom exhibited in the Saatchi Gallery that produced 20,000 metres of double-helix coloured rope in a single week.
Wolfgang Tillmans, photographer and artist
The first photographer — and the first non-British person — to be awarded the Turner Prize, Wolfgang Tillmans emerged in the 1990s with his stark snapshot documentations of youths, clubs, and LGBTQ culture. Since then his practice has expanded to include diaristic photography, large-scale abstraction, and commissioned magazine work. This year, a new volume — Four Books — brings together his previous works in a series of startling and often explicit portraits.
Sir David Adjaye OBE, architect
The award-winning Ghanaian-British architect is known for his bold, brave, ingenious structures, often crafted from unexpected materials. A true visionary whose buildings never particularly resemble buildings, he is perhaps best known for crafting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
Charlie Casely-Hayford, designer (pictured above)
Intelligent, influential and thoughtful, Casely-Hayford helms the tailoring house that makes the modern uniform for a certain set of London’s bright young things. An exacting eye, and a charming, calming presence among the noise and nonsense that can sometimes afflict fashion. One of the good guys.
Amin Taha, architect
Architect Amin Taha’s choppy distortions of former styles — like a history-book fever dream — add texture, depth and intrigue to every city they descend upon. His modernist ruins and misremembered re-imaginings of Victorian-style terraces and townhouses are truly unique and terribly clever.
Norman Foster, architect
A constant shaper and shifter of urban style and planning, the visionary Lord Foster now argues that Covid presents an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine our cities. The man behind the Gherkin in London and Apple’s groundbreaking Cupertino headquarters, Foster continues to push the boundaries of architecture and design in general. Whatever our cities look like after Covid, his will be an important voice.
Ben Pentreath, architect and designer
Pentreath’s utterly English, curiously Georgian-inflected style sees him craft brand new homes in the mold of stately rectories and classical manors. His interiors, meanwhile, has a more distinctive and playful style, with 60s and 70s references bouncing off ornate historical design. Tellingly, Pentreath was the creator of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Kensington Palace reimagining.
Gabriel Chipperfield, developer
Part designer, part architect, part entrepreneur, Chipperfield has built shops, homes, galleries, newsstands in his time, always with an eye on both function and beauty. His canny re-imaging of Shreeji news on Chiltern Street (with wife Laura de Gunzburg) was the unexpected sceney opening of 2020, while 2021 will see the unveiling of a new hotel in Margate
Guillaume Glipa, restaurateur
The former executive director of the Birley Club (and before that, the director of Food & Beverage at Chiltern Firehouse), the dashing Glipa has just opened Louie, an exquisitely finished New Orleans-inspired dining Room over in Covent Garden.
Victor Lugger and Tigraine Seydoux, restaurateurs
The pair behind the playfully chic Big Mamma group, Lugger and Seydoux have left an indelible mark upon the London scene with their wonderfully confident Circolo Popolare and Gloria Trattoria offerings. When we yearn for the return of hospitality in this city, it’s because we hope to return to their tables one day soon.
Margot and Fergus Henderson, chef-restaurateurs
Both halves of London’s original restaurant power couple were awarded an OBE at the end of 2020 for services to the culinary arts — and if anything, the recognition is frankly overdue. Fergus Henderson is the chief and restaurateur behind St John, the original nose-to-tail joint over in Smithfield, while Margot Henderson founded the beloved Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch. Hearty, British, brilliant.
Jackson Boxer, chef-patron
The indefatigable dynamo of London’s restaurant scene, Boxer’s boundless energy has seen him steer both Orasay and Brunswick House through the storm of the pandemic. Orasay won SquareMeal’s Best New London Restaurant at the end of 2019 — a testament to Boxer’s infectious talent and hit-making nous.
Ravinder Bhogal, chef-patron
The chef-patron at Marylebone’s Jikoni, and a former protege of Gordon Ramsay, Bhogal creates what she calls a ‘proudly inauthentic’ collision of African, Indian and British cuisine. Jikoni’s cookbook, released last year, was met with widespread acclaim, and her column in the FT is frequently joyous.
Des Gunewardena and David Loewi, restaurateurs
The brains behind the world-straddling D&D empire, Gunewardena and Loewi can safely say they have changed urban hospitality forever — and for better. The pair have an eye for a remarkable location and a soothsayer’s nose for a future hotspot — and it would take far too long to list their litany of hits here.
The first British chef to be featured on Netflix mega-show Chef’s Table, Khan is a vocal commentator on kitchen equality from her acclaimed Darjeeling Express — the female-run Indian restaurant with a truly gorgeous and seductive menu.
Duncan Campbell (pictured above) and Charlotte Rey, design consultants
The Campbell-Rey dream continues to shine and shimmer, thanks to the ever-exacting eye of its constituent partners. Playful, useful, and bringing sweetness and light into the everyday, the design consultancy’s projects are a joy to behold.
Richard Rogers, architect
Richard Rogers may have just completed his final building — a striking gallery that cantilevers 27 metres out above the hillsides of Southern France — but his impact over modern architecture will reverberate for some time. The designer of the Lloyds building and the Pompidou centre, his modernist, functionalist, unapologetically techy buildings are now a staple of the 21st century aesthetic.
Thomas Heatherwick, designer
Described by Terence Conran as “the Leonardo da Vinci of our times”, Thomas Heatherwick is one of Britain’s most sought after designers, known for creating bold, attention grabbing pieces like the 2012 Olympic cauldron. With its self-proclaimed team of “180 problem solvers” Heatherwick’s King’s Cross Studio remains a magical and mysterious place, churning out 170 projects over a prolific 24 year period.
Marc Newsom, product designer
For many the most influential designer of his generation, co-designer of the Apple Watch Marc Newsom has created everything from furniture and household objects to bicycles and cars, private and commercial aircraft and yachts. In April 2015 his Lockheed Lounge chair sold at auction for £UK2.4 million ($AU4.69 million), making it the most expensive object ever sold by a living designer.
Sir David Chipperfield, architect
Bold, striking, blocky and confident, Sir David Chipperfield’s buildings impart a sense of gravitas and permanence to the cityscapes they join. His buildings have a solidity and strength like few others, but also combine lighter and ingeniously elegant features in their interior spaces. His biggest project in recent years is the transformation of the US Embassy at Grosvenor Square into the luxury Rosewood hotel.
John Pawson, architect
Perhaps best known for his transformation of Kensington’s Design Museum, Pawson’s elegant minimalist architecture and clean-lined aesthetic has made him a mainstay of shop design and modernist villas.
Junya Ishigami, architect
The creator of The Serpentine’s shimmering, snaking, slate-covered Pavilion, Ishigami blurs the line between indoor and outdoor space using ingenious design and unexpected references.
Graham Howarth, architect
London’s arch designer of theatres, Haworth is known for his completion of the Battersea Arts Centre’s grand hall, as well as numerous other playful and striking projects. Often inflected with an industrialist or brutalist air, they are a handsome reflection of the urban spaces around them.
Will Bowlby, chef-patron
The Kricket creator has modernised Indian food for the London palette, and crafted dining rooms with gold-dust warmth and genuine atmosphere in the process. A charming and hard-working hero of the city’s food scene, his empire is set to grow further in 2021.
Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, restaurateurs
Your favourite restaurateurs favourite restaurateurs, Corbin and King have returned a civility, warmth and continental grace to London’s dining scene. The pair are true conjurers of atmosphere and energy, and the novelistic backstories that accompany each opening speak to the craft and guile that goes into such serene simplicity.
Henry Dimbleby, Food Tsar
The co-founder of Leon is now the UK’s so-called Food Tsar — and at the end of last year served up £1.2billion food plan to Boris Johnson in order to help the schoolchildren most in need. Charming, intelligent and committed, his role will only grow more important in the coming years.
Francois O’Neill, restaurateur
The affable founder behind new St James’s honeypot Maison Francois seems destined to be a long-term fixture of London’s restaurant scene. The place is flooded with light and laughter and framed by modernist arches, while the food is exquisite, wholesome, and precise — like a brasserie in heaven.
The Sethi Family, restaurateurs
You could dine out at one of the restaurants in the JKS group every night for a year and never get bored. The sibling team now operate fifteen restaurants in London, with the much-lauded Flor joining the party in 2019. There’s also Lyle’s, Trishna, Gymkhana, Sabor and Kitchen Table — and even street-food inflected queue-merchants Bao and Bubbledogs.
Daniel Morgenthau and Will Lander, restaurateurs
The pair behind Clipstone, Portland and The Quality Chop House know how to build a dining room like the best of them. Delicious, wholesome, ingenious, life-affirming dishes in grown up, handsome surroundings. Perfect.
Juan Santa Cruz
Charming, debonair, and wonderfully exacting, Santa Cruz conducts his restaurants — from Casa Cruz in Notting Hill to the more relaxed Nathalie on Hanover Square — like a symphonic orchestra. He now turns his eyes to Manhattan, and a new Upper East Side beaux-arts club and restaurant. It is destined for success.
Arguably the most influential barman in recent times, Chetiyawardana — or Mr Lyan, as he is more widely known — was last year named IWSC Spirits Communicator of the Year. Experimental and masterful, his London project Dandelyan was named World’s Best Bar in 2018.