The Inventory: Martin Boyce

Martin Boyce, 45, is known for his large installation work. In 2011 he won the Turner Prize for “Do Words Have Voices”. He has a fascination with objects from public spaces and has represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be an architect. But you have to be good at maths so that ruled it out.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

State school: Holy Cross High School, South Lanarkshire. Then Glasgow School of Art. It was my dream to go to art school. I had a great group of friends – there was a great desire to make things happen.

College: Glasgow School of Art

Who was your mentor?

The crucial influence and energy was from that peer group.

How physically fit are you?

Probably more over the past five years than the prior 15. I didn’t exercise at all until recently. Then I tried running and I loved it.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

I’ve always found outward ambition a bit uncomfortable. Luck’s a part of the equation.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

Not to my knowledge.

How politically committed are you?

I believe the way we behave and function in society is of huge importance. But party politics, the way they’re structured – I can’t bear it. It feels as though it’s designed to make people stop caring and feel powerless. And it’s like Coke versus Pepsi, though it only took the Conservatives to get back into power for us to realise there is a significant difference.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

We do all the stuff that most people do now: we recycle; walk the kids to school; keep driving to a minimum.

Do you have more than one home?


What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

There are a few things that would be nice to wake up to artwise – one of those late Warhol self-portraits with the crazy big wigs, or a Robert Gober sculpture, or a John Chamberlain foam sculpture.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

We did a lot of travelling last year and that was lovely. I like nice clothes but I only buy a few things each year; I’m not extravagant. I’ve never been in debt.

In what place are you happiest?

In the kitchen making pizza for family and friends.

What ambitions do you still have?

I still feel like I have a lot to do. I really don’t have any ambition in sight – if things continue the way they are, I’ll be perfectly happy.

Happiest place: in the kitchen making pizza

What drives you on?

The realisation that I couldn’t do anything else.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

The most significant is getting into art school.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

I didn’t get accepted the first time and I’ve never felt so crushed.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

He would be completely delighted – and shocked.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

If you’re an artist, you can go on alone. You can make art with the contents of your fridge, or your pocket. It’s a great thing to have support and facilities but to go back to the beginning again would be just another challenge.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

It’s a complex and emotive issue but, in principle, I do.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I was brought up Catholic. I’ve always left it in the “to be resolved” file. When you’re brought up with a set of ideas, you can’t deactivate them.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

10, 11, 100? I’m a very lucky chap.

‘A Partial Eclipse’ by Martin Boyce is published by Mack at £50,

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