It is churlish to bring up the vagaries of an artist’s market when a painter is struggling with more important matters. But it is curious that Brice Marden’s auction sales should have been so dramatically peaked in the Spring of 2008 with two very strong sales totaling more than $14m and then nearly shut down (at least at the high end) with the exception of one strong sale in November 2009. Never a heavily traded artist, Marden was unable to regain the pricing heights earlier this month.
So it is interesting to read this capsule comment in the Financial Times’s brief encounter with the artist:
With a career that spans art’s seismic shift from cottage industry to investment market, he is intensely conscious of the dangers of selling out. “You can just go for the money!” he gives a hoarse bark of laughter as if facing down a fierce, inner black dog. “I can do more shows, use more assistants. But I am too old-fashioned.” His refusal to “churn them out” sees his most recent painting, a 37ft, five-panel canvas entitled “Moss Sutra”, a year in the making and “still not happening”.
Simultaneously patriarch and revolutionary, he is torn between the desire to make work that will assure his legacy as one of the modern greats, and provide for his family. “My wife says that my mantra is, ‘I’m not getting enough work done and we don’t have any money.’ There’s this whole thing about late work. Some guys just blossom. Titian is the great example, he just got better and better. You just have to keep trying to do that.”