Howard Lewis, 53, cultured, creative and curious, brings a multifarious box of tricks to the table. After five years of spectacular underachievement at St Pauls, he entered the stock market straight from school, joining the patrician firm of Cazenove as a valuations assistant and thereafter extending his repertoire as a trainee at R Layton. He subsequently built a private client business with various brokers, who have now largely departed for that great trading floor in the sky, before cofounding Thesaurus, a pioneer in the provision of electronic information services to the art and collectibles world. The company developed an auction search facility enabling subscribers, typically dealers, collectors and museums, to source items for sale globally that met their precise criteria. Thesaurus acquired Trace which was focused upon the identification and pursuit of stolen art and the databases of each scoured one another daily seeking potential matches. Trace liaised closely with law enforcement agencies, insurers, loss adjusters, heritage bodies, trade associations and the individually aggrieved and was responsible for recoveries worth over £100m. Its magazine was sent to some 170 countries worldwide.
Contemporaneous with the above activities, he concentrated increasingly upon the supervision of private family interests which encompassed investments, property and art. He is now the director of the Schorr Collection which, though dominated by Old Master Paintings, includes many diverse categories. Howard, for example, was instrumental in the evolution of a collection of very early toys, games and educational material for children, such as alphabets, harlequinades, battledores and chapbooks, some of the greatest rarity. This is now on long term loan to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Numerous items from the overall collections are on long term loan to institutions in the UK, US and beyond and he possesses many excellent connections in this sphere.
Over many years, he wrote investment reports for private circulation that touched upon issues such as infrastructure, demographics and the vagaries of markets. He broadened his horizons by reflecting too upon aspects of the art market and life in general but, more importantly, started sending articles to friends, clients and associates on subjects that they were interested in or which he felt they should be aware of. The response to this was overwhelmingly positive and led to the genesis of OFFLINE. The fundamental premise behind it was that in a wired world people needed more than ever to engage in physical interaction with one another. The articles were mere props but they reinforced the fact that the simple acts of talking, laughing, eating, thinking and so forth had most impact when widely shared. OFFLINE is designed to be the antithesis of everything online and recognises that veering off road and then back on it is both valuable and necessary. It aims to challenge and provoke, question and answer, stimulate and amuse, nurture and nourish in a delightful and congenial setting.
As to slightly more prosaic matters, Howard is passionate about art, books, football, travel, wit and wonder and is extremely partial to jam doughnuts (with sprinkly sugar for the purists among you). He is a member of MCC, Savile Club, London Library and a long term season ticket holder at Arsenal FC, true purveyors of the beautiful game.