The Wick - Interview: Art patron and MarGin Gin founder Rachel Verghis The Wick - Interview: Art patron and MarGin Gin founder Rachel Verghis
Monday Muse

Interview: Art patron and MarGin Gin founder Rachel Verghis

Interview
Rachel Verghis
29 January 2024
Interview
Rachel Verghis
29 January 2024
Art collector, patron, entrepreneur and mother Rachel Verghis has honed the art of the juggling act. The ex-banker is the founder of Goo.ey – which sees artists, designers and activists create limited-edition phone cases – and VerghisArt, a platform for artists from the Asia Pacific region. She also serves on the board of Biennale of Sydney, alongside supporting other art organisations. Amid all this, she has found time to launch her own gin brand, MarGin Gin, a tipple “as cool, crisp and uncomplicated as a freshly printed ‘white fiver’,” as she puts it.

It may be Monday morning, but we’re raising a glass to Verghis as she tells us more about the joys of being an entrepreneur, what motivated her quest to make the perfect sipping gin and why art and a G&T go hand-in-hand.

THE WICK:   What gets you out of bed every day?

Rachel Verghis:   My joyful yet infuriating 13-year-old. I also spend about 10 minutes hyperventilating, thinking about the day ahead.

TW:   Why did you swap banking for a career in art and entrepreneurship?

RV:   Art always played a part – a small drumbeat which eventually drowned out everything else. Banking is what I set out to do but it never really fulfilled me. I resigned before Louis came along. The entrepreneurship was born of necessity. Something (anything) was required to sustain the art addiction before it spiralled out of control. In the process, I realised how much I love working for myself, working on projects I chose and failing and succeeding at my own pace. Liberating.

TW:   You combine your love for both in your endeavours, such as like Goo.ey and VerghisArt. Can you briefly share the vision behind VerghisArt?

RV:   VerghisArt began around the time of Louis’ birth. I had just finished 18 years of full-time work and I felt lost. I had Louis very late in life, on my own and motherhood did not come easily. I needed to work and to feel connected with the outside world again. Supporting artists and advocating for them was a lifeline. It definitely helped me find my feet again, find purpose, and steady the wobbly ship.

TW:   What made you start your gin brand and what sets it apart?

RV:   I have had a Gin & Tonic at 5 pm almost every day, for as long as I can remember. Vanity made me want to make my own version – a very dry, uncomplicated, smooth, sipping gin.

MarGin began as a COVID-19 lockdown project. I remember reading an article about the Frankfurt based artist Mike Bouchet’s artwork “Tender”, for which he commissioned a German smell and taste institute (Symrise) to distil the “smell” of the USD bill. The bill was composed of more than 100 ingredients, with the main being aldehyde, a dominant smell in soap, linen and surprisingly Chanel No 5. Fecal molecules also featured highly! But I digress…COVID and all its restrictions led me to believe we would be retiring all physical currency. I wanted something to memorialise the British currency. I thought, why not capture the taste of British money in a gin. It does sound crazy even as I say it out loud.

“Art always played a part – a small drumbeat which eventually drowned out everything else. Banking is what I set out to do but it never really fulfilled me.”

TW:   How is MarGin Gin inspired by the British ‘white fiver’?

RV:   Mike Bouchet intended his artwork, priced at $75,000 per vial, to be opened and diffused at the start of his show at Marlborough Gallery in New York in 2017 – a gesture that turned the entire space into a work of art. I never forgot this story and when I came to this idea of making a ‘money gin’, I looked back at the origins of our currency and the ‘white fiver’, the first five pound note from 1793 just captured my imagination. MarGin was born!

TW:   Tell us about the art collaborations you do with MarGin Gin and why.

RV:   My team did a little count the other day and, throughout 2022 and 2023, we sponsored over 100 art and culture events. Why? Because I love this world and while waiting for the multitude of licences to sell gin, it felt like the most natural thing to do was to get everyone I love, doing what I love and drinking it. 2024 is the year we launch for sale and we are doing a ‘white fiver’ activation where we hand out reproductions of these bills for art patrons to exchange for a MarGin & Tonic (or cocktail) at cool London establishments. Keep an eye out for them!

TW:   Tell us about a book that changed your life.

RV:   I still remember The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. But there have been so many… adding to – and never subtracting from – the journey to now.

TW:   As a Biennale of Sydney board member, how do you use your voice to support women in the art world?

RV:   The Board position has been such a privilege, but I do think fairly gender unspecific. Art does blur this for me. However, my engagement with extraordinary platforms like AWITA – started by my brilliant friend Sigrid Kirk – and supporting The Line, conceived and run by another brilliant woman Megan Piper, keeps me bobbing in the female art-sphere.

TW:   What is your favourite cultural spot in London?

RV:   I have a deep love for architecture and often find myself returning to the Serpentine pavilion in the months it is up in Kensington Gardens. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at architecture porn. I also have a deep, seemingly unreachable dream of opening a museum in Iceland to house a collection of Louisa Matthíasdóttir paintings – which is a story for another time.

TW:   Name a dream artwork or artist for your future collection?

RV:   I am a little obsessed with Danielle Orchard’s paintings of “women who stare back”. I’m just manifesting that so that one drops into my lap at some point… How divine to add that to my collection.


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