Brice Marden Masterwork to Be Auctioned by Sotheby’s

On 12 May 2010 Sotheby’s New York will offer the most important work by Brice Marden ever to appear at auction, “Cold Mountain I” (Path). Executed in 1988-89, the masterwork was the first in the artist’s acclaimed series of six monumental (108 x 144 in.) canvases named for Han Shan, known as Cold Mountain, a legendary 8th or 9th century Chinese poet. The series marked the culmination of Marden’s journey toward a new style of painting leading away from his monochromatic, multi-panel, beeswax paintings of the 1960s and 1970s. It is the only painting from the series of six than has ever appeared at auction and is estimated to sell for $10/15 million when it is offered in Sotheby’s spring Evening Sale of Contemporary Art in New York.

“Cold Mountain I (Path) is likely to be the only canvas from the historic and much revered suite of six to ever be sold,” noted Anthony Grant, International Senior Specialist of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s. “Three works are in museum collections and two are in private collections, unlikely to be sold anytime soon, if ever.”

Few contemporary artists have reinvented their style as successfully as Marden; the Cold Mountain series marks a transformation in his work and stands as a testament to his exploratory spirit. “Cold Mountain I” (Path), the first work from the series, was painted roughly six months before the others and is at the forefront of the artist’s new direction. It shows eight columns of elegant glyphs (the format reminiscent of the multi-panel post and panel works that he painted in the early 1980s) that herald the direction, not only of the remainder of the series, but the path of Marden’s oeuvre into the 1990s up to today.

Influenced by the lyrical gestures of calligraphic poetry writing, Marden reveled in a return to gestural markmaking, through numerous drawings on paper and then in his single panel vertical paintings of 1986-87. Significantly, Marden had also long admired Jackson Pollock’s genius for `drawing into painting’ which also expanded from the finger and wrist to the arm and shoulder. As Marden commented in regard to the Cold Mountain series, ‘One of the things I wanted to do in these Cold Mountain paintings was to lose myself in the same way that I lose myself when I am drawing.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Dia Center for the Art, Brice Marden, Cold Mountain, 1992, p. 70)

The group of six canvases was immediately prized among collectors and museum curators as a dramatic statement of painterly re-invention. Today, all are in museums or major private collections. Cold Mountain 2 (1989-91) is in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D. C. and Cold Mountain 6 (Bridge) is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, while Cold Mountain 5 (Open) is part of the promised gift of the Meyerhoff Collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The group was the subject of a major 1991-1993 traveling exhibition in the United States and Europe organized by Dia Center for the Arts, which is the only time the six paintings have been exhibited together.

The present work was first acquired by the legendary dealer and collector, Thomas Ammann, followed by the Daros Collection in Zurich. It has been consigned for auction by an important American private collection.