Andrew Martin has assiduously amassed an exemplary collection of Australian contemporary art. A collection which acts in many ways as a chronicle of Australia’s artistic talent over recent decades.
Martin says that he, “didn’t grow up in a household of art or artists” and he finds it difficult to pinpoint an exact trigger for the development of his passion for art and architecture. He readily acknowledges his own limited artistic ability, but beams as he describes seeing his three children become invested in the arts, with one at Melbourne University doing their Master’s in Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing, another having recently graduated from National Art School with a flair for abstraction, and the third currently studying media and design at university.
After leaving UBS asset management more than 11 years ago, Martin has successfully built-up MA Financial Group as Managing Director and Head of Asset Management, during which time he continued to indulge in his love for art. Martin most enjoys that moment when a work quickens his heartbeat, and then the moment when he uncovers a meaning behind it, sometimes by connecting with the artists directly.
His children often rib him about his latest purchase and where it could possibly fit within the home, so his attitude now is: “I try to have my latest purchase be my favourite work – and that’s often a very high bar to set – rather than another work to fill a wall”. Martin says that a piece must sing to you and have a charge of energy. “I love an auction,” he says, “I like the thrill of the chase, I love the adrenalin.” He readily admits that he’s an auctioneer’s dream, finding it tricky to stick to a budget when he sets his sights on the ideal artwork. He doesn’t always apply an investment lens to what he acquires; first and foremost comes his love and enjoyment of the works, with any investment potential something of a secondary consideration.
A walk-through of Martin’s airy abode feels like an homage to great Australian art. Waratah, 1970, a piece by Brett Whiteley, is an oil and mixed media piece. At a monumental two metres long, it’s of a single flower in part relief, giving the impression of transitioning into real life. There are sightings of Ryan Hoffmann’s circular textural works, one placed in ambient lighting behind a grouping of lush green plants, appearing moonlike in its projection. A Whitely portrait of an elongated nude woman aptly demonstrates his mastery of line. There’s an imposing Dale Frank with vast swathes of purple, green and black, and a John Olsen featuring his famed frog motif (the popularity of this motif having been cemented when he was commissioned for a series of Leeuwin Estate wines) and another, a topographical look at a landscape and lake. One gets a sense with Martin that, instead of having to go to a gallery to get his cultural fix of the visual arts, it’s been conveniently brought into the comforts of his home.
When pressed to name his favourite artwork, he pauses, then begins listing names in quick succession: after at least a dozen are discussed, it’s fair to say it is a tall order to narrow down his preferences. Martin has a particular affinity for abstract pieces though, with Frank, Steven Harvey, Ildiko Kovacs, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, and Reko Rennie spotlighted as favourites.
The enduring appeal of the arts for Martin has seen MA Financial Group become the principal partner in sponsorship for Sydney Contemporary. Martin notes that, “as a longtime supporter of contemporary artists, we believe a vibrant arts community is an important pillar of our dynamic culture.” Recently MA Financial Group has opened new offices in Sydney and Melbourne, offering him the opportunity to spearhead art purchasing in-house for all staff and clients to enjoy. The works of Robert Owen, David Larwill, Tim Maguire, and Tim Johnson, among other premier artists, now grace its walls. He had some trepidation regarding receptiveness, fearing that people in finance, being a generally conservative industry, may not be amenable to contemporary art. He was pleasantly surprised to find that colleagues have widely embraced the collection. So, with most wall space in Martin’s own home already occupied, this offers a new avenue for collecting.
It’s heartening to see that collectors such as Martin are not only open to making key art purchases for themselves and the viewing public’s pleasure, but also extending that passion to positively influence the contemporary arts through patronage. It’s an example for others to follow and will hopefully foster a wider appreciation of contemporary art nationally.
Waldemar Kolbusz: Big Tease, 2016. oil on linen 180 x 280CM – Andrew Martin collection (as featured in Belle Magazine)