By Lalaena Gonzalez-Figueroa
Photography by Giovanni Lunardi
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then Ed Marin’s vision has evolved into a sort of collective perspective of enduring appeal. His firm houses over 18,000 images whose artistry transcends time and vogue. As owner of Soicher-Marin and leader of the creative team, he upholds an ideal that was established in 1959 by the company’s founders: his father, Eduardo Marin, Sr. and Harry Soicher. “Looking back at the company’s early catalogues, it becomes evident that while the artwork is dated, the aesthetic is very much the same,” remarks Ed. “At Soicher Marin we have developed a signature style that reveals beauty in simplicity.”
Before joining the company Ed spent years as a photographer, with much of his career in high-end fashion and marketing. After collaborating on marketing and photography pieces with Soicher Marin, Ed transitioned into the business full time, under the careful tutelage of his father. “I was groomed in every aspect of the business, from the creative to the practical,” he recalls. A lifetime of preparation was behind him; Ed fondly recalls dinners with artists and visits to studios. “I grew up with paint in my nose,” he quips, adding, “As a teenager, I had a definite understanding of quality and authenticity in art. There’s something about that that remains in the business today; when we consider pieces that fit into our ‘point of view,’ they have to be authentic. If not, they don’t make it into our program.”
It might be intimidating, talking to Ed about a subject that is so innate to his being. It might be awkward to look at pieces and wonder if they are, indeed, the right ones. But for all of his knowledge and history, for the breadth and depth of his connection to quality art, he is generous about the experience, allowing others to come to their own conclusions about what will work for their needs.
“What I love about Soicher Marin is the creativity within our environment,” says Ed. “I never know what’s going to happen when I walk in the door.” A creative team understands that the process of creation is ripe with surprises to be discovered and secrets to be unraveled, and they thoroughly enjoy the organic experience that drives the business. For clients, the process is facilitated by a knowledgeable staff who works to uncover each project’s unique needs. “We understand that art is subjective, but we are also skilled at creating a message or setting a tone through select pieces,” Ed states. “We take the time to ease our clients into the experience, rather than simply presenting them with thousands of images to choose from.”
Technology has always had a place in the world of art and design, and thanks to developments in scanning, reproduction and data storage, Soicher Marin has been able to cultivate a substantial collection that reflects the firm’s unique artistic identity. “For years, originality was a challenge,” acknowledges Ed. “Within our industry, people were basically relegated to acquiring images from catalogues that were available to everyone. By the time we went to market, we might be showing the same pieces of art as our competitors, with framing interpretations being the distinguishing factor in what set us –and our brand- apart.”
By the mid-1990s, recalls Ed, art sales had become an impersonal process in which tubes of images were sent to framers, who still had to determine how to distinguish themselves and their pieces from the masses. “It was distressing,” he notes. “Not only did the industry lack imagination, but the process was extremely wasteful. Out of a thousand pieces of paper, I would use less than one hundred.” The mass production of art, notes Ed, has consistently resulted in a market saturation that leads to trends…and guaranteed business for distributors who determined those trends.
With the advent of critical tools like industrial scanners and specialized printers, Ed and his team have capitalized on an opportunity to thoughtfully refine their collection, to discover new pieces and deconstruct existing art into something completely unexpected. “Within three months of purchasing our first machine, we had acquired another three,” says Ed. “We now have the ability to create; the responsibility of what we are doing is tremendous.”
What is beautiful is not always obvious. Ed and his team take a deconstructive approach to art, delving into the very structure of some pieces in order to best capture their honesty. Photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe understood that the most powerful images aren’t always planned; what may emerge from a family portrait might be a glimpse of sunlight reflected off of a piece of leather sofa, something so unassuming in its existence that it would surely be lost behind pristine smiles, if not for the fact that someone was willing to perceive it. The creative team members at Soicher Marin are investigators of beauty, looking behind pretty facades to uncover meaning and truth.
It can happen anywhere, this process of discovering and then creating. Ed’s treasures, pieces of art and antique books and records, reveal themselves in the most unassuming ways. He describes one find, an 18th century notary public record. “The transactions were written daily on beautiful parchment paper,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the book, but I knew there was something to be done.” After scanning the pages, so ripe with history and age, Ed began to explore scale as an object of design. “I love to take an idea and expand it or contract it,” he offers. “It can completely change the nature of the piece, allowing it to become something completely new and different.” This is how one notary public’s beautifully-scripted records were pared down to one exquisitely crafted letter. “When you begin to explore scale, as in the powers of ten, then you discover art that is more ephemeral,” says Ed. “I believe that there is beauty in everything; you just have to find it.”
“You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.”
Ed started flying 15 years ago, out of necessity more than anything else. Living in Los Angeles, California, he had become, like so many, a slave to the city’s unrelenting traffic. On one particular weekend jaunt, when precious family time was spent trapped in a stagnant river of metal and wheels, he made a declaration. “I told my wife, ‘I’ll never do this again,’” he recalls. “I said I was going to buy an airplane and hire someone to teach me to fly it.”
And that’s just what he did. Three days later, Ed was enrolled in a pilot training course, and within a year he was indeed flying his own airplane. Today he holds a multi-instrument rating and utilizes his air transportation in order to connect more quickly with clients. “My team and I love the ability to reach out and touch someone in a matter of hours,” he explains.
Is inspiration gleaned from the change in perspective? Does rising above the tedium and gravity of land grant Ed a unique glimpse into an alternative view of beauty? His response is unexpected. “I have to admit that what I love more than slipping the surly bonds of earth is the technical aspect that flying entails,” he reveals. “The precision involved, the unforgiving nature of the experience is amazing.” Perhaps this practicality is the anchor that has kept Soicher Marin rooted to its original ideals. Ed is not distracted by whimsical flights of fancy; his vision remains affixed to an unidentifiable point on an undefined horizon. Beauty and function will coexist peacefully, each in its rightful place.
The aesthetic of Soicher Marin is revealed throughout its collection of 18,000 images, which include reproductions as well as original works by collaborative partners. Upwards of 2,000 pieces are readily available to designers, while all images are ready to view on the company’s newly redesigned website. “We aren’t coy about the fact that we are a business,” Ed says. “Our online portal reflects our connection to our customers, and our desire to meet their needs.”
Over 40 years after its inception, Soicher Marin continues to grow and evolve into a leader within the decorative arts community. While he looks forward to sustained growth, Ed reveals that he has a distinct vision for the future of his company. “I don’t want to expand for the sake of growth,” he asserts. “What I enjoy is the opportunity to use Soicher Marin as a tool to touch and inspire new generations, to bring people into the firm and help them flourish, to grow them as leaders.” He is thoughtful in this, and direct in his intentions. “I’m not trying to mold people into becoming better designers, or helping them achieve status. It’s about finding direction, discovering what they can do and then challenging them to accomplish this.”
Ed is thrilled to call Sarasota his new home, and has enjoyed exploring the artistic and cultural treasures that are unique to the region. His firm maintains an international clientele, working on exciting projects including a stunning high-end residence in Shanghai, China; a Four Seasons Hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia; and a boutique hotel in New York. Soicher Marin is called upon by independent interior designers, home builders and commercial entities to assist them in creating their own signature artistic brands.
7245 16th Street East, Suite 110
Sarasota, FL 34243
Copyright © 2011 REAL Magazine
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Photography used under license from Giovanni Lunardi Photography
Photography Copyright © 2011 Giovanni Lunardi