Steve Lazarides is a British-Greek Cypriot publisher, photographer, collector, and curator known for his contribution to popularizing street art and underground art. He played a significant role in promoting artists like Banksy and creating a market for graffiti art. Lazarides opened galleries, organized immersive art shows, and published two volumes of his personal photography archive documenting Banksy’s career. His current venture, Laz Emporium, sells art prints and homeware featuring designs from various artists.
Steve Lazarides, a British-Greek Cypriot publisher, photographer, collector, and curator, has left an indelible mark on the art world by playing a pivotal role in popularizing street art and underground art. His journey began in Bristol, England, where he grew up and studied photography at Newcastle Polytechnic. It was during his teenage years at Bristol’s Barton Hill neighborhood youth club, organized by John Nation, that Lazarides discovered the captivating world of street subculture and graffiti art decals.
In the 1980s, armed with his Nikon F-mount camera, Lazarides embarked on a photographic exploration of his surroundings as a photography student. His talents soon caught the attention of Sleazenation, a renowned magazine, where he worked as the photography director from 1996 to 2001. Lazarides’s lens became a window into British sub-cultures and youth movements, including the explosive UK rave scene of the early 1990s, the thriving skate culture, and the emergence of outsider street art.
Lazarides’s connection with the enigmatic artist Banksy marked a significant turning point in his career. Commissioned by Sleazenation to photograph Banksy’s portrait in 1997, Lazarides continued to collaborate closely with the artist, assuming roles such as his driver and personal photographer. This collaboration laid the foundation for a profound relationship that eventually led Lazarides to become Banksy’s gallerist. In 2001, Lazarides and Banksy joined forces to launch the ‘Pictures on Walls’ website, which aimed to promote graffiti art. This ambitious endeavor expanded their horizons, enabling them to collaborate with a diverse roster of talented street artists.
As the market for street art gained commercial success in 2007, just before the global financial crisis of 2008, Lazarides found himself at the forefront of this burgeoning movement. One of Banksy’s works, titled “Laugh Now,” fetched a staggering £228,000 at auction in early 2008, underscoring the profound impact Lazarides had in stirring and sustaining the fever surrounding urban art. The Financial Times aptly described him as the individual most responsible for this artistic revolution and the one who had the most to lose if it were to decline.
In 2006, Lazarides took a significant step by opening his first gallery in London. This bold move provided a platform for showcasing talented yet relatively unknown artists from the UK. Notably, Lazarides played a pivotal role in bringing Invader’s first UK exhibition, Space Invader’s Invasion London, to light, alongside hosting Rubik Bad Men II. Today, Lazarides represents esteemed artists such as the portrait painter Jonathan Yeo, the Parisian artist JR, the contemporary English painter Antony Micallef, and the Portuguese graffiti/street artist Vhils.
In 2009, Lazarides moved his headquarters from Charing Cross Road to a magnificent five-story Georgian townhouse on Rathbone Place, near London’s bustling Oxford Street. The inaugural exhibition at Lazarides Rathbone featured the debut UK show of Portuguese graffiti artist Vhils, solidifying the gallery’s status as a flagship Lazarides space. Alongside the gallery, Lazarides Editions, an in-house print studio, was established to collaborate with artists in creating prints to be shared with the art community. Additionally, Lazarides expanded his reach by opening the Banksy Print Gallery in the Mondrian Hotel on the South Bank in 2016, later relocating it to Mayfair in early 2018.
In 2019, Steve Lazarides bid farewell to the business he had helped shape, leaving a void that few could fill. His departure marked the end of an era defined by his collaboration with Banksy and the transformative influence they had on the art world.
However, Lazarides’s artistic journey did not end there. He embarked on a new chapter, organizing shows that would not be out of place on a Turner Prize shortlist. One of his notable achievements was pioneering the trend of contemporary immersive art through a series of remarkable ‘pop-up’ shows. These included the critically acclaimed Hell’s Half Acre, co-curated with actor Kevin Spacey, which took place in October 2010 in the evocative setting of The Old Vic Tunnels beneath Waterloo station in London. Lazarides revisited the tunnels with shows titled Minotaur and Bedlam in subsequent years, captivating audiences with innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions. In collaboration with The Vinyl Factory, Lazarides hosted an off-site exhibition titled BRUTAL in October 2013 at London’s iconic 180 The Strand, further cementing his reputation as a trailblazer in the art world. These pop-up shows showcased the works of esteemed artists such as Doug Foster, Conor Harrington, Lucy McLauchlan, Antony Micallef, Karim Zeriahen, Stanley Donwood, Vhils, Todd James, and Ian Francis.
In 2016, Steve Lazarides embarked on a new venture, curating his extensive personal photography archive, which contained approximately 12,000 photographs chronicling Banksy’s career. He self-published two volumes of his collection, titled Banksy Captured Volume I and Volume II. The books garnered immense popularity, with Lazarides self-distributing the first and second editions, resulting in over 5,000 copies sold within a month at the end of 2019. Banksy Captured Volume II featured additional photography and commentary, offering readers deeper insights into Banksy’s world. It showcased moments from Banksy’s iconic 2006 Los Angeles exhibition, “Barely Legal,” as well as images of the artist’s audacious unauthorized installation inside London’s Natural History Museum in 2004. Both volumes were self-published through Lazarides’ Laz Emporium venture, representing yet another endeavor that underscored his entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to showcasing extraordinary art.
In 2020, Lazarides made a noteworthy appearance as a talking head in Vision Films’ documentary “Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art,” further solidifying his status as an influential figure in the art community.
Presently, Lazarides is actively involved in Laz Emporium, a venture that offers art prints and homeware adorned with designs from renowned artists such as Jamie Hewlett, Jonathan Yeo, Mode 2, Charming Baker, Stash, Teech DDS, and Lazarides himself. Laz Emporium encompasses an online store and a captivating two-floor shop in Soho, London, featuring a downstairs exhibition space. All the items are meticulously crafted at Lazarides’ art, design, and craft studio located in the picturesque West Country.