Remembering Brice Marden (1938–2023)

The curator of the late artist’s first exhibition in Greece remembers their friendship

BY Dimitrios Antonitsis in Opinion | 15 AUG 23

My collaboration and friendship with Brice Marden started in 2000, when I asked him to exhibit some of his drawings in ‘Auras and Avatars’ at Hydra School Projects in 2001, my art space on the Greek island. Afterwards, we struck up a friendship and had several discussions about working on another show – something that would draw on the extensive influence the county has had on him. Over several dinners, and across many wonderful moments in his studio, we developed the exhibition ‘Brice Marden and Greek Antiquity’, which opened last year at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. To almost everyone’s surprise, this was his first exhibition in a country he had partly called home for decades. My aim was to explore the impact that the history, culture and landscape of Greece – and especially of Hydra – had had on him for the past 50 years. It was very personal; many of the works were drawn from the private collection of his family.

Brice Marden, Santorini 2, 2010–18, oil on linen. 1.9 × 1.4 m. Courtesy: Courtesy: © 2023 Brice Marden; Gagosian; Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

I admired Brice for many reasons but, following his death last week, three come to mind. First, his laconic answers: Brice kept it always short and sweet. Over the years, I observed that his responses became briefer, more concise. His use of language was crisp and economical. No wonder he read haiku poetry. After all, in life, rarely do more than 17 syllables truly matter.

Second, his enigmatic gaze: ‘If I make a painting in Greece, it looks like it was made in Greece,’ he said of his show at the Museum of Cycladic Art. ‘The characteristics of a place just somehow get into the painting, or get into my painting, because I want it there […] If I’m in that place, I’m responding to that place.’ His eye was metaphysically tuned to landscape and light. One of my favourite works by Brice, Water-Hydra (1975), was first shown to the public last year. It was one of the rare moments in which he worked directly from nature. What a treat!

Brice Marden in front of two of his works in 1974.
Brice Marden at Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis, 1974. Courtesy: © 2023 Brice Marden; Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photograph: Gagosian

Finally, his mastery of time: Brice impressed me when he told me that time doesn’t really matter when you are creating. I noticed that some drawings from his series ‘Souvenir de Grèce’ (1974–96), were started in the 1970s but only finished in the 1990s. Every now and then, he would go back and work on these drawings, but the majority remained unfinished for two decades. When I asked him about this process and its meaning, he smiled at me and mysteriously answered: ‘In limbo!’

Main image: Helen and Brice Marden at the Parthenon in Athens, c.1970. Courtesy Helen Marden Studio

Dimitrios Antonitsis is a curator and artist who lives on Hydra, Greece.