“Where would you find an Icelandic art enthusiast and former gallery owner living in Denmark other than in the town of Skagen? Situated on the northernmost point of Denmark, this town has long been known for having inspired some of the most important artwork ever made in Danish art history. For a period it became a refuge for many of the best-known Danish 19th century painters, normally called The Skagen Painters. It is the breathtaking light in Skagen that makes everything appear almost unreal – a light that is reflected by white sandy beaches and the turbulent sea surrounding the small peninsula where our next Islander has been living for almost 20 years.
During the trip from Copenhagen we gradually move from a capital of around 2 million inhabitants to reach the considerably smaller city of Árhus, and then continue into the Danish countryside with its fields of neatly cut grass. Every now and then well-organized rows of trees interrupt what sometimes seems to be an endless horizon, and small and nicely kept farmhouses appear along the road. Not a very challenging landscape for an Icelander, but as we approach the beautiful town of Skagen we become more and more conscious that we are about to discover why this town holds such a special value in the minds of the Danes.
When driving up to Marín’s house, where she lives with her husband Knud, their dog Ella, and a group of eleven horses, you know that you will not be spending the day in a Danish fairytale like setting. The house, unlike most of the houses we had already passed on the way, is very modern and minimal, a little like Marín herself. The more colourful world that receives you once you enter the house turns out to be a reflection of the homeowner’s character as well.
“Did you see my email? I wanted to let you know that I would have lunch prepared, so I hope you haven’t eaten yet,” Marín says after having welcomed us. We follow her through the bright and very spacious living room, into the kitchen. It is clear right from the start that Marín is very used to receiving guests and that she enjoys the role of hostess. While preparing lunch and offering us a glass of wine, she tells us about her visit to the Copenhagen opera just days before and how much the story affected her, explaining that going to see La Boheme can turn into an emotional journey. It is clear that Marín is a very open person and unafraid to share her thoughts.
“Me and my husband Knud, we only fight over two things; art and our children,” she says when asked about the vast collection of art pieces placed everywhere around the house. “We can have discussions about where or if to hang up a certain art piece, and he really is a hard opponent, so I let him decide sometimes, even though it happens less and less that we disagree on those things.” Knud, Marín’s husband, is the owner of one of Denmark’s biggest shipyards and the reason Marín has spent the last 20 years living in Skagen, considered by many to be a very isolated town. She tells us that for an Icelander it is the best place to live in all of Denmark, “because it is always windy.”
She has made a life for herself here on her own terms, first working in an art gallery and later becoming an owner of the same gallery. All around the house you see work by the artists Marín worked with during that time – most of them are Russian painters that emerged right after the fall of communism. To no surprise Marín tells us these artists became close friends and stayed for long periods of time as guests at her Skagen house, which was constructed 10 years ago. “We got the architect Mogens Kassow, a personal friend from Skagen, to design the house – he had already designed the atelier where I used to have the gallery. We told him we wanted this to be a house that would enable us to display most of our art work, with a very big kitchen for receiving guests and of course with a living room that would fit our grand piano. These were the requirements we had.”
Recently Marín decided to close down the gallery, keeping a small annex right in her own house, where she displays some of the art work. “Now it is time to start minding my own garden, both metaphorically and literally speaking. I have in mind spending more time with my family and to start growing my own vegetables,” she says while pointing to a neatly built wall around her greenhouse. “We did this to make sure we would not be on display,” she tells us – a problem she has found a little tiresome, since strangers have been curious enough to come up to the house, going as far as looking through every window, scaring off the owners in the process.
We take a walk outside to greet the flock of horses that have been enjoying an afternoon in the mild December sun. Marín does not ride anymore, since an accident she had, but she has it in mind to continue breeding – if she can find time in between the projects she wants to execute. Even though she had already explained that her plan was to start taking things slowly from now on, she continuously mentions different projects she has in mind for the near future. The part about starting to take things slowly must be a utopian idea for someone like her, a self-declared workhorse who constantly needs to have several things going on at the same time.
The time has come to return to Copenhagen. Marín says goodbye as we stand outside her house, and tells us to let her know if we decide to come back to Skagen. She has opened up all the doors to the house and from where we stand it is easy to hear a song by Talking Heads playing loudly from inside. We now fully understand what she meant when she described this house as being about enjoying the things she likes the most. We leave more convinced about Skagen being a place that is worth visiting again and again than when we arrived. When we come back, we will be sure to let Marín know, and maybe taste some of her secretly homegrown vegetables, most certainly joined by a glass of wine and a few good stories about life in the remote town of Skagen.
Text : Auður Gná // Photography : Anna Marín – annamarin.dk