Which was the very first painting you sold?
When I was at Eton College with Prince William, I did my A-level piece and it was called Cyclist and Passenger. I came first in the country for art A-levels. The wife of the headmaster of Eton at the time was a massive art collector and asked if she could buy the painting, offering me £2,000. I was going to sell it, but my dad said that I shouldn’t as it would be worth much more in the future. So I lent it to her. I remember going with my mum to their house and they had Picassos, Mondrians and Rothkos on their wall. There was actually no space for my painting, and so the headmaster took down a Picasso to put up my painting. Later, I sold that piece to a collector for £500,000.
Tell us about The Art Maze and UNESCO collaboration project.
It’s UNESCO’s 50th anniversary and they want to celebrate it. I was asked to create 50 paintings celebrating the most prominent UNESCO sites around the world. The exhibition goes to 18 countries across six continents. We opened The Art Maze exhibition at the Burj Al Arab helipad with the first 30 paintings. I’m doing another 20. In September, UNESCO has its big anniversary celebration at its headquarters in Paris where all 50 pieces will be on display. The event will be opened by French President Emmanuel Macron and the UN Secretary General.
How did you manage to recently unveil one of the paintings from The Art Maze collection on Mount Everest?
It is the first painting to be unveiled on Mount Everest. It was above base camp at nearly 6,000 metres. You have to take a helicopter to get there and no one’s ever taken a painting there before because of the hazardous situation with the weather and how dangerous it is. The painting was up there for a day.
How challenging was it to create the artwork you will send to the Moon this year?
That project is in partnership with NASA, Spacebit, Astrobotic, and Selenian who is the art curation company that approached me to create this work. It will be the first official painting to be placed on the lunar surface. The artwork is on a lunar-resistant plate. With a laser, I etched onto the plate an image of two people embracing, signifying the reconnection of humanity. The plate had to go through tests over three years to make sure that it will last eternally on the Moon. During the day, temperatures rise to 200˚C, and at night they plunge to -180˚C. You also have to contend with radiation, gravity and the possibility of meteorites hitting the Moon.
What is your golden rule when packing?
Pack incredibly light. Make sure you can get everything in one bag.
Which are the three things that you always pack in your suitcase?
A picture of my daughter, a very comfortable pair of jeans and Vitamin C because I’m often on three hours of sleep.
Which was your most rewarding travel experience to date?
At the age of 24, I set myself a challenge to get from England to Siberia and back with no money in my pocket and no credit card. It took me two months, but I did it. I used to do chalk drawings in the street, street sketches, and sometimes I would paint little paintings for restaurants and they would give me food. I also befriended the concierges of hotels. I would get a night at the hotel, and I would do sketches [in return].
Which is the one travel experience you’d rather forget?
A package holiday that you do in naivety thinking that it’s cheap and you’ll save some money, but it ends up just being a disaster.
How do you spend your air miles?
I only ever use them for upgrades.
Which is the one UNESCO site you haven’t been to which is on your wish list?
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia in Türkiye.