Marcus Jansen began his art career 20 years ago, and his work is now in collections worldwide, including those of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA), The New Britain Museum of American Art, The PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, the Housatonic Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
Julian Schnabel, Early Collector
Like other artists in those days, he started out selling his paintings at the corner of Prince Street and Broadway in Soho. One of his first customers was the actor John Ortiz, who has appeared in movies like Carlito’s Way, who happened to be in the neighborhood shooting a film with Julian Schnabel. “He bought one of my first paintings when I set up on the street down there,” Jansen says.
Art World Star
That may sound like a typical New York story, but Jansen took an unlikely path to prominence in the highly competitive art world. Growing up in the Bronx and Queens, his family later moved to the town of Mönchengladbach, Germany, his father’s hometown, where he spent his teens. He often visited relatives in New York, and on a 1986 trip there, Jansen met the pioneering graffiti artist West One, who had a profound impact on the course of his life. “He was the one who really inspired me to not only paint but to really become more artistically involved.”
That’s when Jansen enlisted in the military, spending a decade serving overseas, including the Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns. Discharged in 1997, Jansen didn’t have much luck with art galleries in Germany and decided New York was the place to be. He stayed with his grandparents in the Bronx and worked Long Island catering jobs on weekends so that he could paint and sell his work in Soho.
Marcus married, spent two years in Atlanta, had a son and moved to Fort Myers, Florida, where his parents were living. “The little one was born so we figured he needed familyA bit of kismet, it turned out that Robert Rauschenberg, who Jansen had long admired, was living in the area. He got to meet his idol, and they even showed together in local exhibitions. “It was ironic because I was a big admirer of Rauschenberg since I was a kid of 14, and here I was now living close to him and getting to know him. It was quite an honor for me.”
Ford Motors & Absolut Vodka
Jansen’s work started getting noticed. In 2003, Ford Motors commissioned him to do paintings celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary. Commissions for Warner Bros. and Absolut Vodka followed, and he gained an international following.
Emmy-winning filmmaker John Scoular, a friend of Jansen’s, decided to do a documentary about him; shooting began in Florida and the project grew to include footage in London and New York. The film, “Marcus Jansen: Examine and Report,” had its New York premiere at the East Hampton TV, Art & Film Festival.
Jansen is active in the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which helps support a variety of local causes, including veterans with PTSD, low-income children, housing and environmental issues.
Up next is an exhibition in Paris in October, and a traveling museum show that will launch at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Florida and then travel to different university museums around the country.