One of the questions I´m most often asked is – how did an Irish lass end up becoming a Latin American Contemporary Art specialist based in Madrid?
How impressed would you be if your darling son introduced you to his freckled face, blue-haired, flowery-Dr. Marten boot-wearing girlfriend who sang lead vocals in a power-pop band in Madrid´s Malasaña barrio, her only claim to fame as opening act to the Irish band, The Cranberries! Year? A zillion years ago, before email, social networks, and even G-strings……and way before her own kids came along! Any mother, not just a Spanish madre, surely would be horrified, in shock at the very least! Fortunately the blue dye ran out, the shaved hair grew back, the band broke up, and the freckly-faced Irish girl left for San Francisco to pursue a degree in World & Comparative Literature.
Frisco is a dream place for dreamers. A bikers´ Paradise. Heaven for a fledgling poet. But the harsh reality for a university student in 1997 is that Silicon Valley was making it big, and rents and housing in the Bay Area were outrageous. So with my degree in hand and a lot more knowledgeable about the world, I returned to Madrid. As an International poll recently showed, Madrid city ranks high (5th) on great places to live, to earn a living, and enjoy life, (back in the late 90´s siestas still existed!). Apart from ESL teaching, my patient partner at that time (my Saint today) embarked on a few fun adventures involving setting up Irish pubs at the height of the Irish Pub extranvaganza in Spain. O´Connor´s pub (after my Saint´s Galway Grandmother) on calle Almagro, was buzzing with music, theatre, and cultural events. It was famed as a really happening place. España truly was a great place to be in the 90s but eventually I grew tired of teaching and longed to do some more travelling. Someone offered me a job in New Zealand, which I took, but after a 30 hour flight I knew I wouldn´t stay much longer than it took me to walk the entire three islands. (NZ is paradise, and I would live there in the morning, but when you´re YFS you don´t want to live in paradise). 6 months later I returned to Spain accepting the fact that it´s a hard place to leave except for California. As it happened, my Saint decided to do a Postgrad at Davis University, in Olive Farming as well as Farm Management. This was the first step in what would eventually lead to a Spanish company buying a large chunk of wasteland in a forgotten place north of Santiago, Chile, and turning the place into a sea of olive trees.
There is something about living in any part of South America that will change you, especially if you´re European. For the next few years the landscape of the Cordillera, the snow capped Andes and the chill of the Pacific became home. Chilenos, Uruguayos, Argentinos, though so very different, taught me much about what Spanish civilization must have been like before modernization. These people are soft-spoken, erudite, polite, easy-going, generous, undoubtedly with a huge amount of picaresque but nonetheless decent people (not including politicians). Fortunately I had already read quite a few of their greatest writers (Borges, Onetti, Gabriela Mistral, Neruda) but when visiting their Bellas Artes and Museum collections it came as a great surprise to me that they are also a very visual people. During a visit to a small art fair in Buenos Aires, (the Saint finally married me in an attempt to keep track of me! Or was it that no one else would be so content olive farming in the middle of nowhere!) I had the idea that Spain, more specifically Madrid, would be an excellent location to hold a Latin American Art Auction. And so the idea was born. By this time I had already been considering returning to school to study an art history business course offered at that time by a prestigious auction house here in Madrid. I was pretty sure that if I showed the success of international auction house figures – since the 1980s Christies and Sotheby´s, the world´s leading auction houses, had already seen their Latin American sales increase from 2 million in sales per annum to almost 20 million in less than a decade – I would be able to convince this local Spanish auction house to allow me to organize such a unique event.
Finally, on February 15, 2006, 285 individual lots went under the hammer in what would be an historic night in the Spanish art world. The works had come from as far afield as Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador, Santo Domingo, Costa Rica, and the US, mostly Miami and New York. Artists, gallerists, and even a few well-heeled collectors had put their trust in me, an Irish woman with a passion for art. This was the beginning of my art adventure in Madrid.
A year later, Emily Murphy Art opened its doors with a private exhibition of Eliana Peréz´s ink drawings on coffee stains. Eliana (born in Colombia, lives and resides in NYC) was the first of a series of Latin American artists I showcased before the births of my three children. Travelling to art fairs is not conducive to great parenting, so I took a break from running the private gallery and organizing exhibitions. Now with three healthy boys, (Dylan, 6, Colin 4, Ryan, 2) well on their way to independence, (well at least on Tuesdays!) there´s a little time, just a little mind you, to have some fun back in the art world.
Apart from organizing free and fun gallery walks, I´ve reinvented myself as what is known in the business today as an ART ADVISER.
And the second question I´m most often asked is what does an Art Adviser do?
Wikipedia describes Art Finance Advisory as a term referring to a set of financial services provided by consulting firms and marketed to such firms´ clients who are art collectors or artists. I would describe myself as someone who can help you to find the best piece of art for you to love and to keep for the rest of your life at the best possible market price. Yes, you do have to pay for your artwork, but my job is to make each step hassle free, fun, exciting and even though we are in Spain, I´m all for customer friendliness. As well as finding works for clients here in Spain, I also travel to some of the world´s top international artfairs – London, New York, Basel and Miami – now you understand why my Saint really is a SAINT.