MY STORY The drink that StARTs art

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A new art prize is to feature in this autumn’s StART London Art Fair, the exhibition devoted to emerging talent at the Saatchi Gallery. The prize is sponsored by Martin Miller’s Gin and here the brand’s global head of marketing, Robert Eastham, explains how the partnership came together

Many in the arts associate the name of Martin Miller with antiques guides. Is this a coincidence?

Not at all. With the intention of strengthening the Martin Miller’s Gin brand positioning and story, we researched the achievements of our founder and found a rich story of an English gentleman who, true to himself, took his ideas and creativity and realised them to the full. Just like an artist.

After school Martin Miller took up photography, and then fell into arts and antiques founding the Miller’s Antique Price Guides with his wife in 1979. He pursued those interests, supporting artists and creating an academy of art and science, bringing together people of passion with ideas and drive.

Miller himself died eight years ago, but does this involvement in rising artistic talent reflect his views or his successors’?

This year we are thrilled to be launching the inaugural StART Martin Miller's Gin Emerging Art Prize. This not only reflects the brand’s ongoing commitment to support young and emerging art talent, but indeed the views of Martin Miller himself. Martin was an avid patron of the arts and artists, and it was this unrestrainable devotion that led him to assemble a large collection and found the Miller's Academy of Arts and Science in Notting Hill. He created this as a space for artists and performers to mingle with club members in a relaxed way, reflective of a literary salon. This art prize is the perfect platform to launch emerging art talent into their careers and a befitting legacy to our founder’s story. Although he was not an artist himself, he certainly had the soul of an artist.


Main image  shows A Spark in the Emerald Forest by Hana Shahnavaz, who will be exhibiting at StART 22 London. Pictured here is Robert Eastham./

Is Martin Miller’s family still involved?

No-one from the family is involved in the management of Martin Miller’s Gin today.

When was the company founded, and when did it begin to associate itself with art?

Founded in 1999, the inspirational story of transformation found in Martin Miller’s Gin holds a close affinity with the artistic process. Since the brands conception, there have been various links between Martin Miller’s Gin and art. Once, Martin Miller organised a charity art auction, in which Banksy contributed, and outrageously threatened to burn any of the remaining art that was not sold. Martin Miller’s connection to the art world has today become the foundation of Martin Miller’s Gin strategy of weaving art and creativity through the Martin Miller’s Gin story and brand activities.

Why did it, and does Martin Miller’s Gin support the arts in any other ways?

In 2020 and 2021 we worked successfully with the Affordable Art Fair online, and physically in London and in Sweden. As part of that association, we commissioned a piece of art called Fluid Forms by Violeta Maya and Persiis Hajiyanni which was a central highlight at the AAF London. 

Is this also your first involvement with this art fair? 

Yes, this is Martin Miller’s Gin’s first year partnering with StART London Art Fair, but it is a partnership we look forward to progressing over the coming years. The winner of the Emerging Art Prize 2022 will be given the opportunity to have their artwork placed onto a limited edition of Martin Miller’s Gin bottles to be launched exclusively in 2023. 

Other spirit manufacturers have been allied with contemporary art, most notably Absolut Vodka. Is there an affinity between distilling and new art, and will you have a physical presence at the exhibition?

Absolutely, in fact we see a clear synergy between the way we separately distil the botanicals for Martin Miller’s Gin and then blend it to strength with Icelandic water with the way that an artist transforms an idea into a work of art. Our association with art and creativity is a natural choice based on the origins of Martin Miller’s Gin, the story of our founder and the clear link between the artistic process and Martin’s own process when he had the mad but genius idea to produce a gin in a different way, resulting in it being the most awarded gin brand since 2004.

We are also pleased to confirm that Martin Miller’s Gin will have a physical presence at the fair. We will be taking over a stand-out bar space within a central location at the fair, Martin Miller’s Gin will introduce visitors of the fair to a selection of surrealist art movement serves created by Global Brand Bartender Danil Nevsky and inspired from the brand’s central DNA theme of transformation. One serve will be exclusive to the fair and only served during Danil Nevsly’s star bartender shift.

The new Martin Miller’s Gin StART Emerging Art Prize is worth £5,000 to the winner with £1,000 each for two runners-up. How will the winner be chosen and is there anything more to the prize than the cash.

The winner will be selected by a committee which includes StART’s own emerging curator Louis Chapple, StART Art Fair Founders David and Serenella Ciclitira and myself. The winner will be announced on Thursday 14 October 2022 at a special prize-giving at StART art fair.  As you say, five shortlisted artists will be invited to attend the ceremony, where cash prizes of £5,000 for the overall winner, and £1,000 for two runners-up will be given. As mentioned, the winner will also be given the opportunity to have their artwork placed onto a limited edition of Martin Miller Gin bottles which we will be launched in 2023.

There is an underlying theme which we have agreed must be portrayed in the proposed artworks and that is Transformation, because of Martin Miller’s legacy. The artistic process and Martin’s own “mad” idea for his “genius” gin have Transformation in common and that is where the two worlds meet. We are very excited to see what the emerging artists will be proposing.

How can applicants apply?

Until 15th June, all emerging artists who are London based, or within easy reach of London from all artistic disciplines are invited to submit an artwork to the committee that responds to the theme of transformation – so selected as this is a theme which is truly embodied in Martin Miller’s Gin DNA through its production ethics and creative vision. 

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