When mega-collectors and foundation founders, J Tomilson Hill and Peter Marino, met in the early 1980s, Hill, longtime vice chairman of Blackstone Group, claims the famously leather-clad Marino was still wearing bow ties and tweeds. Though the award-winning architect would dispute the latter, the two made it clear in a conversation on 29 January at Sotheby’s New York that they do agree on three things: their close friendship, the importance of art education and the fact that both of their private bronze collections rival that of any in America. During this event, which marked the first time Hill and Marino spoke in a public arena together, Sotheby’s George Wachter, Christopher Apostle and Margaret Schwartz welcomed guests to a panel discussion and dinner in honor of Masters Paintings & Sculpture. Denise Allen, Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, moderated the discussion, which began with a crash course on the history of collecting Renaissance and Baroque bronzes, a generally underappreciated and academic genre.
To an undeniably engrossed audience, Marino and Hill shared the reasons why they began collecting bronzes, the differences between their collections, their experiences exhibiting their art in public (most notably, Marino at the Wallace Collection, London and Hill at the Frick Collection, New York), as well as Hill’s newly opened, Marino-designed Hill Art Foundation in Chelsea, and Marino’s future foundation in Southampton. With a fondness for mythology, Marino’s preference is toward Baroque and Rococo “storybook” bronzes that are theatrical and large enough to make an impression in his home’s music room, which has a 25-foot ceiling. Favoring earlier Renaissance bronzes, Hill is attracted to their linear quality, which he compares to the abstraction of Contemporary art, for example, works by Cy Twombly or Brice Marden.
When asked to give advice to new collectors, Hill suggested doing your research and forging connections in the close-knit bronze community. But despite likely inspiring a room’s worth of guests to collect bronzes, Marino’s advice was one of humorous self-preservation. “Could you please stay away, so Tom and I can have them all?” Ahead, view images from the night and click here to discover more about the Hill Art Foundation. –Stephanie Sporn