Hugo Burge, Director, Marchmont Ventures, has been collecting sculpture personally for about fourteen years, but over the last eight years, this has extended into his professional life through the restoration of Marchmont House, an eighteenth century Palladian stately home on the Scottish boarders, built by the Third Earl of Marchmont, but substantially enlarged by the highly creative and much-loved McEwen family with Sir Robert Lorimer in the early Twentieth Century.
The house renovation was the winner of the Historic Houses and Sotheby’s restoration of the year for the whole of the UK in 2018. Hugo helped to enable the restoration vision – to bring the house alive as a home for makers and creators, offering an inspiring retreat in a beautiful setting, largely driven by an eclectic art and sculpture collection.
What started as Hugo’s opportunity to develop his personal interest, has arguably now become a mild obsession, to the benefit of the canvas of the amazing Marchmont House and its grounds. Hugo says, “Sculpture is a subject close to our hearts and we have not only expressed this through the collection, but also through upcoming events like Exploring Modern Scottish Sculpture which takes place on 21 September at Marchmont House.”
Read on to find out more about the fascinating Marchmont collection and Hugo’s obsession:
MEET SCULPTURE COLLECTOR HUGO BURGE
Where do you think your love of sculpture stems from?
That is difficult to say, I’ve always been attracted to landscapes, forms and colour in a way that I sometimes wonder if others are. Apparently my grandfather had a love of Henry Moore’s work that I was unaware of – and I would have loved to talk to him about it – but it does feel like an innate interest and magnetism to sculptural forms, their stories and beauty. I love how they seem to change and complete spaces, landscapes and perhaps also ourselves. I also suspect that I love them because part of me would like to be an artist, I feel the need to express the urge to make and build things, so I think a psychologist might say that I’m living a little vicariously through the makers and their creations.
What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
My main motivation is creating surprising and beautiful spaces that engage, calm and inspire the people that visit them. I was brought up in a relatively small house in London, so I think part of what I’m doing is trying to ensure I feel at home and relaxed at Marchmont, which is huge in comparison, by giving it a creative feel and a purpose, using a range of old and modern sculptures to ensure it doesn’t feel too formal, constrained or purely historic, looking forward as well as reflecting.
What was the very first sculpture you purchased? What drew you to it?
I think the first sculpture I bought personally was by Gerald Laing – one of his Galina series. I was attracted to the beauty of the futuristic but enduring bronze form, representing his then wife. I was impulsive and bought it at auction knowing very little about it but then set off on an odyssey to learn more, which took me on a pilgrimage to the remarkable Kinkell Castle where Gerald’s studio remains to this day. There I learnt more about his compelling story and his stunning body of work.
What does the Marchmont collection contain more of, classic or contemporary sculpture?
I think that our collection at Marchmont is quite balanced but perhaps now mildly biased towards modern sculpture, simply because this has given us the best opportunity to do something fresh, different and creative. I love the balance, and historic sculpture is an important part of the mix. Indeed, in many ways older sculpture is probably overlooked and under-valued, there are plenty of dreamy historic houses filled with pieces that can make your eyes pop and arouse goose-bumps, but modern sculpture has given us an opportunity to surprise a little and – hopefully – offer something that inspires creativity and to think differently. That is what I would love to achieve anyhow.
We love hearing what other people thing about the collection and we regularly open the doors to visitors – over the next few months we have two events coming up; “Conversations in Wood” on 3 August and “Exploring Modern Scottish Sculpture” on 21 September 2019 (click here to find out more about Marchmont tours and events).
In your opinion, what is the role of an art collector in the career of an artist?
The role of the art collector is to find things that you love and when you do, by buying something, a story, an image and a work, ultimately – for living artists – you support the creation of further work by someone who you respect and get pleasure from that. The word patron sounds a bit formal and I’m not sure I relate to that, but the role of supporting, energising and fuelling artists to take the next step – to develop ideas, to think bigger or simply to make more beautiful things is enormously pleasurable. There is – I think - a selfish but visceral pleasure in feeling part of it, of living vicariously through the artist but also playing a small role in helping to create more things you appreciate.
Any top tips for collectors who are interested in sculpture?
I’m just learning as I go along, often taking professional advice where it feels appropriate (we do work with some superb art advisors) and sometimes following my gut feeling. I think it’s a very individual thing and art – like life – allows you to do things in your own way, that gives you pleasure – perhaps it’s actually easier in art! Art in some ways feels indulgent, an opportunity to do things for the sheer pleasure of it but art also – perhaps – comes closest to some of the purest urges of what it means to be human. In short, rather obvious advice, do what gives you pleasure.
It’s fantastic to hear about a collector merging their personal passion with their profession. If you, like Hugo, love the mixture of contemporary and classical sculpture – we’ve created a selection of (ahem... slightly more affordable) three dimensional works to spark your imagination – why not take a leaf out of Marchmont’s vision and convert your home into a creative, inspiring retreat.
The stunning frontage of Marchmont House, complete with Sun Gazer 2 by William Turnbull.
Featured art from first to last:
Hugo Burge, Director, Marchmont Ventures.
Tides by Yoko Kubric.
Galina by Gerald Laing.
Three Knobbers by David Nash, installed in the entrance hall at Marchmont House.
Angel of the North Maquette by Antony Gormley.
Hugo Burge next to Sun Gazer 2 by William Turnbull on the front lawn.