Peter Marino: ‘It might be easier to talk about what I don’t collect’
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My personal style signifiers are a black leather policeman’s hat, a pair of silver meat cleavers that I wear around my neck and leather gloves to hide scars from a motorcycle accident. I had the meat cleavers made in upstate New York – they remind me of my grandfather, who was a butcher. I also wear black Red Wing motorcycle boots, so that I’m ready to hop on my Iron Horse and go.
The last thing I bought and loved was a royal French bronze of two wrestlers, from a private collection. I love the patina as well as its important size. I’m interested in this whole period of Renaissance bronzes, and this is a particularly wonderful piece.
The place that means a lot to me is my home in Southampton [on Long Island]. We call it Southeaven and I have 12 acres of beautiful, healing gardens that are filled with roses and fruit trees of all varieties. I also keep bees here and make honey.
And the best souvenirs I’ve brought home are photos on my phone. I’m the anti-schlepper. I travel light because I am always on a plane, so I tend not to be a big shopper. I love bringing back photos, however, to share with my wife and daughter, or to inspire my work.
My style icon is Marlon Brando in The Wild One. I like outliers – people with attitude who have designed their own look, and even their own clothes. There are only a handful of people who have managed a singular look. I was also inspired by Elvis Presley when he started to wear black leather.
The best books I’ve read in the past year are Plunder: Napoleon’s Theft of Veronese’s Feast by Cynthia Saltzman; The Greeks: A Global History by Roderick Beaton; and The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic by Mike Duncan. I love the ancients – the treachery, people behaving badly – it’s just like The New Yorker.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a white enamel horse bracelet by David Webb that’s set with coloured gemstones. My wife loves antique David Webb jewellery and I got this piece for her at Primavera Gallery in New York.
And the best gift I’ve received is a square bronze table from Claude Lalanne, a few years before she died. It has cabbage-leaf legs that turn into paws, and as I am a Leo – the sign of the lion – it’s even more special.
The last music I recorded was Stravinsky’s The Firebird by pianist Zhu Wang. I presented him at Carnegie Hall when he won the Young Concert Artists award, and he also gave a thrilling concert at my home that I taped. I’m producing a Peter Marino Spotify playlist and it starts with Wang, followed by Marvin Gaye and a lot of Mozart.
I have collections of French ceramics, one of the world’s largest private collections of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, baroque bronzes, Tiepolo Old Master drawings, sculptures by Melvin Edwards and artwork by Sanford Biggers, Tom Sachs and Francesco Clemente – and when I say “collection”, I usually mean more than 20 or 30 pieces. I also collect the work of Anselm Kiefer and Georg Baselitz. Oh, and rare 18th-century French books. I have a lot of unusual desires. It might be easier to talk about what I don’t collect.
In my fridge you’ll always find Smucker’s all-natural, creamy peanut butter and celery sticks. This is my go-to healthy, satisfying snack – try it if you haven’t.
I’ve recently rediscovered The Getty Villa in Malibu. I love the fascinating mix of antiquities: furniture, Italian paintings – especially the beautiful Jacopo Bassano – and fantastic bronzes.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my five-day-a-week, early-morning exercise routine. Day one is back and thighs; day two is chest and tris; day three is legs; day four is shoulders and arms; and the fifth day is yoga and stretching. Wherever I am in the world – Hong Kong, Thailand or Florida – I can do this workout, with or without a trainer.
My favourite building is the Seagram Building in midtown Manhattan, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. No one has surpassed it in terms of elegance, site, the beautiful fountains on the pink granite plaza, the gold ceramic tile detailing. I also like the Barcelona Pavilion – same guy. Talk about a genius.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a pair of Austrian-style leather trousers, made for me by my top-secret tailor. They have strings down the side, and one panel overlaps the other at the knee.
An indulgence I would never forgo is skiing in Aspen in the winter and playing tennis in Southampton in summer – both require taking significant time off, which is an indulgence. And I live a very clean life – no alcohol, no drugs, no nothing – but I do love potato chips on Sunday nights.
An object I’d never part with is a small Giambologna bronze Venus holding the tools of architecture. I’ve had it for several years and I want to be buried with it.
The grooming staple I’m never without is Vademecum Swedish toothpaste. I like the fresh mint taste and I always travel with it.
The artists whose work I would collect if I could are the Old Masters – paintings by Vuillard, in particular. I enjoy the academic side of research and establishing the veracity of these works – I even have my own purple light. It’s so easy to buy a modern painting by contrast; all you have to do is write a cheque.
My favourite room in my house is my music room in my New York apartment. I’ve staged operas here for 120 people and it’s glorious. It has 23-foot-high coffered ceilings with excellent acoustics and a small stage. You really do feel transported there.
My wellbeing guru is my trainer, Kip, but otherwise, I do nothing fancy in terms of hair-cutting or nutrition. I do follow – but not fanatically – the Eat Right for Your Blood Type regimen. I am A+ and I feel like 90 per cent of its recommendations work for me.
I have no interest in websites or apps. On the weekends, I love the Financial Times in print. I didn’t have technology the first 50 years of my life, and I definitely don’t need it in the last 50.
In another life, I would have been a great patron of the arts in ancient Greece, around 450BC. All of the art was startling, and the philosophy was still so valid – it was a great moment in human history.
When I need to feel inspired, I listen to opera, walk in my garden or go to a museum, particularly The Frick, The Morgan or The Met in New York. These hold the work of the truly great aesthetes. I do textile work with Rubelli and many of the colours in a recent creation were inspired by Paolo Veronese paintings I saw at The Frick.
The best bit of advice I ever received was from my parents. They said to remember where I came from and to be humble. There’s always somebody better off than you and there is always somebody worse off. It is a very middle-class way of looking at who you are and staying grounded.
The works of art that changed everything for me were Andy Warhol’s silkscreens. I have 11 now and seeing them as a 20-year-old was eye-opening, as he was so revolutionary. They were never exactly the same, even though they were more mass-produced. I loved how he sort of nailed the whole celebrity craze.
The place I am excited to visit next is west Africa, specifically Senegal, where Kehinde Wiley has a studio, for the vibrant arts scene.
The Peninsula, Peter Marino’s first UK hotel project, opens in London in March