Artist Interviews 2024

Marco Olivier  
By Laura Siebold

Marco Olivier’s human-size sculptures are impressive. The Cape-town based artist carefully traces the human body shape, and its muscles in his art. With their eyes closed, the viewer’s attention gets drawn to the natural contours, and the organic shape of the sculptures. Marco is inspired by nature and the creativity of the art community in Cape Town, and artistic icons. In his interview, Marco talks about his path as an artist, the story behind the closed eyes of the sculptures, and the alignment and precision of his work.

Marco Olivier is represented by Dagaro Ella, a platform dedicated to offer art collectors an emotional and inspiring experience. We met Marco at the LA Art Show where he showcased his art for the US market, one of many international opportunities on the books for him in 2024. Marco is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Marco, I spotted your art at the L.A. Art Show 2024. Your giant sculptures of faces and bodies, made of resin and bronze, really caught my eye. When did you first start experimenting with those materials?

I have been wanting to be a sculptor from the age of 22. At the age of 42, I moved to Cape Town, starting completely over and I got an opportunity to work with my niece as a jeweler. I knew nothing about creating jewelry, I first worked with aluminum creating rustic bracelets. This medium was flexible, and I knew this would be the start of my artist career. I made my actual first aluminum face sculpture only 2 years later.

Please tell us a bit more about your artistic background. Where did you grow up and how much of an art education did you enjoy? When did you first exhibit your sculptures publicly?

Early Life and Adversities: Marco Olivier’s journey to artistic eminence began amidst humble beginnings in Upington where he navigated life’s challenges as one of four siblings raised by a single mother Virginia Olivier. Growing up in Cullinan, his family faced financial hardships leading the siblings to gather empty bottles to afford daily necessities. Marco’s innate leadership and unwavering commitment to family emerged during these challenging times shaping his resilience and never-give-up attitude. Educational Pursuits and Career Exploration. His educational trajectory from primary schooling in Cullinan to his art-focused years at Pretoria Boys High ignited his passion for creative expression. While studying aircraft maintenance at Atlas Aircraft and Centurion Technical College. Marco’s pursuit of excellence led him to earn certifications in both military and civilian aviation qualifications.

I am interested in the sculptural process. What fascinates you about sculptures? How do you choose your models? And how long does it take you to finish a piece?

I have been a fitness trainer since I can remember, I did sport[s] at school and directly after school, I started working out during my Air force days and multiple gym facilities. The human body and sculpting my body have been a driving force for me, healthy lifestyle and fitness. I even competed in 2010 at IFBB Bodybuilding Fitness category just to push myself and sh[ow] how I can develop each muscle. This is why I love sculpting the human anatomy. When I started with the human life size bodies, I printed 3m canvases of the exact muscle definition from the front and back. I had them on my workspace wall and started carving away the big polystyrene block with a chainsaw. Only after many trials and errors, my hands started feeling the natural contours of the human body and face. Today, it is like second nature. When I started back in the day, it would take me 3 to 4 weeks. Today, I can create a human body in less than a week. This lead time is only for the master work, this mean[s] once I finish carving down the polystyrene, I apply the textures with clay.

Each of your face sculptures tells a story and is unique in texture and color. Their common trait is that they have their eyes closed. Why did you choose this expression as the common narrative?

My very first faces I created had open eyes, I mainly made male faces, this was around 2018. I was fascinated with the human face and the map it shows me when I reflect back at a significant face that has crossed my life’s journey. I liked open eyes on my art because this whole artistic career that had humble beginnings was like an eye opener for me as a creative soul, the endless possibilities I have with the little I had to start with. I create[d] [sculptures] now for the past 3 to 4 years [with] eyes closed because I noticed once my face with the open eyes was an actual artwork, the open eyes looked hollow, literarily hollow and to some scary. The closed eyes you see today on my faces reflects peaceful souls, but most of all their secrets are safe behind closed eyes. Let’s face it, each one of us wear[s] masks at some stage of your life, whether you at your in-laws or even the office after a emotion[al] night. Conclusion, I create my closed eye unisex faces because peace is what we all desire in every aspect of life. Their story they tell is whether your life’s journey was hard or easy, you need to make peace with where you [are] at in life right now.

Your Instagram page states that you are inspired by nature and anatomy. Do you allow your sculptures to evolve naturally or is the process of creation more regulated, based on the anatomy of the human body?

This answer is easy, with my trained hand that naturally finds its way to the intricate dimensions of the human form, I get inspired, I start carving away and as I go, I sculpt. Most of the time I slightly vary from what I had in mind. I work focused, precise, and spent most of my time on the exact face and body mapping, making sure the eyes, nose, lips and cheek bones are aligned.

When you start the sculptural process, how do you approach your subjects, especially in very sensitive situations?

Creating personalized artwork of a client, my approach is professional. Firstly, my focus is on a warm welcome and a memorable experience. Personalized artwork for me is a beautiful journey and experience every time. If it’s a full body sculpture, I have a 3D concept designer that does a full 3D scan at the client’s home, or if clients are remote, I work with a local photographer and brief him [on] the different angles of HD photos I need. They always wear tight gym attire or swimsuits.

You are based in Cape Town, South Africa. What are some of the unique advantages you enjoy as an artist in South Africa? How much have you been shaped by the local art scene and by other countries during your career?

Benefits of being South African based artist:
Workspace is affordable and available due to SA being a manufacturing country. Labor is readily available, in our country unfortunately unemployment rate is high. Starting my own business in SA is inexpensive to start, this is due to [the] Government promoting self-employment.

Benefits of being a Cape Town based artist:
Cape Town is world famous for its beautiful beaches, mountains, and evergreen forests. My immediate surroundings inspire me each day. Art culture in Cape Town is huge, art has been a fundamental building block of Cape Town. We have of the best street artists in the world here in Cape Town that beautify our sky scrape[r] office blocks with the most amazing super large murals. Large Property developers are manipulated by our local municipality to spent 1% of their annual income on public art in front of their buildings. This ensures local artists get the opportunity to create a public artwork for an income.

Shaped by other countries:
I can only say this, it is not as much the other countries that inspires me as the icon Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci from these countries that I learn from. They are my true inspiration. The Statue of Liberty, Liberty Bell, and Mount Rushmore. These momentous artworks have changed countries, moved nations and most of all brought people together, unitedly. Conclusion, the greatest honor for me as sculptor would be to be nominated to create an iconic artwork that touches the world. I have a vision of what I want that to be and [so] God will, I will achieve this goal to build that one-time 30m sculpture that resonates with the world.

You are working with many architects and homeowners for commission-based projects and installations of your art regularly. Have you had a favorite project where you feel that your art really emphasized the natural language and aura of a space? Please go into detail.

Yes, I touched a small part of my inner artist recently when I was commissioned by my partners in India Casamia. I was asked to create a romantic moment of true love caught in time. I made a man holding his true love in his arms under an umbrella with water pouring over the umbrella. I called this unique artwork ….LOVE IN THE MOMENT.

Have you ever collaborated with other artists during your career? Which advice do you have for emerging artists to broaden the exposure of their art?

I have collaborated recently with Angeliki Stamathakou, Greek artist from Athens, Greece. She is a ceramic sculptor, and she came [to Cape Town] in December 2023 and I showed her how to create molds for larger artwork. She is a very skilled ceramic sculptor and she and I worked like a team creating new range of organic coral like mirrors and outdoor planters. My advice to emerging artists are: Never quit, create more artwork that sells easier and as your artist career grow[s], you can create what you love. Keep knocking on 1000 doors, if only one opens, it counts. Do as many free public installations as possible to get visibility and build your brand.

We are excited about future projects and where we can see your art next. Is there a dream or personal goal you have set for yourself in 2024?

I have my next show in Hamptons Art Fair with my dedicated partners Dagaro Ella Gallery on July 1, 2024. I must say USA is a big market for me, my partners are existing clients of mine for the past two years in SA and after my global first places in Dubai and Italy, they asked for [a] partnership doing California and Shallot. Very excited about these partners. My own team, Mia and Donovan du Toit (Art manager and Brand development Manager) have submitted applications for Paris Plus par Art Basel in October with my other partner from Mauritius, Gallery Boma. Great partner selling so much of my art in Mauritius, and he has French heritage. Art Cologne in November with my German Partner, Oliver Kreider. He has been a client of mine for over 4 years, his dedication to the brand is commendable. We have also done our application for Miami Art Basel with him but under my own gallery “Gallery Marco”.

Personal goals:
• Take over the world (joke).
• Find my true love, my German partner has this vision creating a live broadcast reality show where I go on dates and believe me, I am kind of a healthy “crazy” man that most probably [would] love to do this show. Just not sure how to start this. If you have any suggestions, spin them my way😁.
• Leave a beautiful legacy for my two amazing daughters Lisa and Emmah Olivier. Lisa works with me each day, learning from her dad. They are my pride and joy, and I grew up very poor and I am working each day for them to make sure they have a financially secure future.
• Another personal goal is to be in a position to live on 30% of my income and bless others with the 70%. I have a kind heart and giving back gives me so much joy.

To purchase Marco Olivier’s artwork, please reach out to Dagaro Ella

Copyright 2024 / Art Squat /