An eclectic collection

A meticulously choreographed photograph by Dean West, titled ‘Beverly Hills Gallery’ hangs in the Martins family home. West is best known for his intricate and highly staged photographs that take everyday occurrences beyond the realm of natural reality. Photos by Stephen Clarke
Marco Martins

For Marco Martins, collecting art is a passion borne out of a love of beauty in all its forms.

His early upbringing in Brazil, where art adorned the walls of his home, combined with extensive travels and stints abroad for education and work have shaped his eclectic tastes, which range from the eccentric to the sublime.

While living in London, he regularly visited the great museums, as well as those in Paris and Madrid. London’s innovative street art and new art movement of the ’90s were also big influences. He was enthralled with artists who made classical art forms cool and accessible, which was symbolic of London at that time, citing artists like Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Tracey Emin and Lucian Freud.

‘Chinese Ancestor Double Portrait, late 19th Century’, artist unknown. The ᴀoor-to-ceiling work is placed in the home’s front entrance and doubles as a divider to an adjacent room.

“They were exciting, world-leading and edgy, and pushed all the envelopes… they made the mundane look beautiful,” says Marco.

Now he resides in Grand Cayman with his wife, Julia, and their three young children, but the managing partner at Harneys law firm feels those early international life experiences shaped his views and tastes in art.

When he travels abroad, he still visits galleries and museums whenever possible, and buys directly from artists, too, enjoying listening to their stories; but here on island he often relies on the Internet for his thorough research of art and artists – and for the purchases themselves.

Careful criteria

Part instinct, part experience, Marco considers many factors before purchasing art for the family’s South Sound home. The process involves viewing a lot of art and trends that he loves, be it in museums, galleries or online; looking at younger artists at a certain point in their careers (mainly, those good enough to have been selected by certain curators); exploring the pieces that produce “the gut reaction”; and then research if there is anything rivaling that art. He often follows an artist for a while to see what they are doing and to gauge the response to their work. If it all makes sense based on the above criteria, he then buys.

Multiple pieces by the same artist form part of Marco’s collection including these two works by Tomas Harker. Above: ‘Haute Couture.’ Below: ‘Homage.’

He has utilized Sotheby’s online gallery in the past, and a current favorite is Saatchi Art. “I have purchased a half dozen big pieces from them over the last 12 months and they curate really fantastic artists,” he says. “The good thing about Saatchi is that they pre-screen for quality, which is sometimes difficult to ascertain, particularly when buying from an online catalogue. So, the trust has to be there and with them it is. Same thing with Sotheby’s or Christie’s.”

His collection varies in style, theme and medium, conveying an inner confidence that translates to boldness on the walls. He also has multiple pieces from the same artist.

Two provocative paintings on the walls, “The Interview” and “The Girl by the Window,” are by Tom Barwick, a former cartoonist for the Financial Times. Two paintings by Tomas Harker, “Haute Couture” and “Homage,” showcase a regal woman lounging in what appears to be a courtly sitting room. Hauntingly beautiful, they evoke the works of old-world masters. Over a dozen paintings by Canadian artist Patrick John Mills also form part of the collection.

In the family TV room hangs “Exodus,” by Australian aboriginal artist Jody Broun. She won the Canberra Art Prize in 2005 for this painting that conveys how aboriginals were driven out of their land.

A floor-to-ceiling original work of art has been cleverly placed in the home’s front entrance, and doubles as a divider to an adjacent room, making it both functional and a statement piece. Titled “Chinese Ancestor Double Portrait, late 19th Century,” the artist is unknown.
Marco also loves purchasing photographs, such as those by Dean West, whose “Beverly Hills Gallery” hangs in the family’s living room next to another photograph titled “Sunshower” by Michael Levin; are seemingly opposite works of art.

“I love the juxtaposition between something very vibrant and something very calming. Plus, size-wise there is symmetry,” he says. Purchasing photographs is a recent passion of his and, like sculptures, is becoming an increasingly formidable art form he hopes to buy more of.

Access to artists

A provocative piece titled ‘The Interview’ by illustrator Tom Barwick, a former cartoonist for the Financial Times, hangs in the sitting room.

“Technology has lowered the barrier in those forms and it is possible today to access really great budding artists who have the means to explore those mediums,” he says, adding that he does not buy art as an investment as it would change how he makes his decisions.

“If it ever becomes valuable, great, but I’m not counting on that for my retirement,” he says, adding he doesn’t know enough about the markets to make those types of decisions. However, art does require an “it” factor, which is more complicated to ascertain.

He feels that with art – as in life – all great works share fidelity with form and an attention to the quality and idea of the craft; a commitment to detail; and a magical talent for the aesthetic beauty that great art encapsulates. He is drawn over and over to things that share those attributes without being confined to a specific art form, but he’s quick to point out that beauty is not formulaic.

“It has to have the quality attributes, but it is fundamentally an emotional instinctive, ‘Wow. I love that.’”

‘Exodus’ by Australian aboriginal artist Jody Broun