Christie’s Is Poised to Break Brice Marden’s Auction Record With a $50M Painting

'Event' hasn't been shown in public since leaving Marden's studio in 2007.

Abstract green and yellow painting
Brice Marden, Event, (2004-2007). Courtesy Christie's

A never-before-seen Brice Marden painting is expected to smash the abstract artist’s auction record when it is offered up by Christie's this spring.

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Painted between 2004 and 2007, Event “marks the finest example by Brice Marden to come to auction,” said Sara Friedlander, Christie’s deputy chairman of post-war and contemporary art, in a statement. With an estimate of between $30 million and $50 million, the two-paneled work is set to surpass Marden’s previous artist record of $30.9 million, established in 2020 with the sale of his painting Complements. 

Marden, who died in August of 2023, is renowned as one of contemporary art’s most visionary figures. After having studied at Boston University and the Yale School of Art, he made his way to New York City in the 1960s. It was there where he connected with other abstract artists like Jasper Johns, whom he met while working as a guard at the Jewish Museum, and Robert Rauschenberg, whom Marden worked for briefly as a studio assistant. He rapidly shot to fame for his subtle minimalist paintings, which today hang in museums around the globe.

Event belongs to Marden’s famed The Propitious Garden of Plane Image series, which consists of three six-paneled paintings and three diptychs. One of Marden’s most ambitious and celebrated projects, the series’ Third Version hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, while its Extremes belongs to the Centre Pompidou Paris.

The artist’s The Propitious Garden works are especially notable for Marden’s artistic techniques displayed throughout the series. Event, for example, contains not only the painter’s signature monochromatic composition but his ribbon-like lines—a motif Marden incorporated into his art after he began studying Asian calligraphic linearity in the 1980s. Even the painting’s dimensions are significant. Having been told by a numerologist that six was his number, Marden chose a 4-by-6-foot canvas because four times six is twenty-four and two and four added together equals six.

The painting will make its public debut in February

Despite its significance in Marden’s oeuvre, Event has never before been displayed publicly, and since 2007 has been in a private collection. It will make its debut later this month when it is exhibited in Dubai during the Art Dubai art fair and will later be shown in Hong Kong and Los Angeles ahead of its auction in New York, where the painting will lead Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Marden demonstrated his enduring commitment to abstraction: each hue carefully chosen and every brushstroke intentional in his pursuit of painting’s divine power,” said Friedlander. “Event is a brilliant and symphonic exploration of the tension between two planar surfaces joined in harmonious resonance, to regard it is a mediation akin to breathing.”

Christie’s Is Poised to Break Brice Marden’s Auction Record With a $50M Painting