1968 - 1976
Marcus Jansen is born 1968 in Manhattan, New York while residing in the South Bronx. Later raised alongside one brother by a mother from Jamaica and a father from Germany.
Jansen witnesses his first subway trains passing by his families Boynton Avenue residence in the Soundview neighborhood of the South Bronx where he first saw cartoon-like characters and writings start appearing on otherwise dull subway trains that changed the city’s environment permanently. Soundview in the Bronx was later also known as ground zero for Hip Hop culture and served to cultivate musicians, such as Rapper KRS One, Hip Hop founder Afrika Bambaataa, Rapper Big Pun and others who resided close by in Bronx River Housing.
Jansen’s family moves to Laurelton Queens NY where Jansen starts school to leave the growing decline in the Bronx, which leads Jansen to exhibit his first painting at the “Lever House” in Manhattan at age six. His painting of a male lion is a stunning depiction on paper, selected during a New York City students art competition while attending school in Queens. This becomes Jansen's first public exhibition.
1976 - 1979
Jansen leaves New York City right before the explosion of the NY punk rock and Hip Hop artscene and is transplanted from the big apple to Moenchengladbach, Germany, his father's birth place, where Jansen is placed into a German speaking school. Due to difficulties that come with such a cultural transition, Jansen faces language challenges as the only child of color in his area, but excels mostly in art and sports instead of academic subjects.
1980 - 1985
Jansen revisits his native NY during the important eighties cultural art movement during summers returning in 1982 where he would stay with his Godmother on W. 98th street and Amsterdam Ave., right across the street from “Happy Warrior Playground” aka “Rock Steady Park” where the infamous Rock Steady Crew was known to be or in the Bronx with his Grandparents.
A rebellious graffiti art movement in the 1980’s, that by then had emerged as a world phenomena producing artists like Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat and later dominates the contemporary art scene is Jansen’s first influence. Jansen becomes involved in the various art forms of the subculture and quickly adopts graffiti and dancing as a vehicle of communication and is fascinated as to what the art form did to it’s environment and how it changes the modern urban landscape.
At age fourteen, after walking into a train station in Moenchengladbach Germany, he sees a catalog book titled “Robert Rauschenberg.” He is fascinated by the cover that shows instruments mounted on wood in golden color with a strongly familiar urban inner-city feel; something he has never seen before but quickly identifies with from his native NY.
Jansen becomes a master at engaging in various cultures and finds new ways to communicate between the two cultures, one of his tools being art. Politics, news and world history which is at the helm of discussion during much of Jansen’s upbringing, initiated by his father, an Historian, avid reader, businessman and US veteran.
It would be the vibrant German Expressionist painters and up coming graffiti artists there during travels to cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and the new action painters from New York that will leave their footprint on Jansen. Attracted by movement, color, motion and impulse, Jansen is mostly drawn to these impulsive rebellious avant garde painters and sees a common thread between the graffiti artists and the master contemporaries which he later explores in his work. Jansen believes that this type of impulsive or subconscious work is a direct result of the oppressive politics and economically disadvantaged or regimented environment from which this kind of work derives. Jansen states, “ In a civilized society, the society is forced to renounce instinctive behavior; it is up to the artist to bring it to the surface in reasonable ways.”
1986 - 1988
Manhattan based Graffiti writer WEST Rubinstein aka WESTONE, who already made his mark in the history books as noted in the book “graffiti kings” by Jack Stewart, It’s during this time that Jansen is introduced to WEST in New York City on a trip back in 1987. WEST encourages Jansen to paint and years later himself becomes Vice President of his own streetwear clothing company PNB Nation clothing. Something that stays an inspiration for Jansen.
Gravitating towards the “instinctive” versus what Jansen sees as the regimented academics, he completes high school and at the request of his father, attends the Berufsfachschule in Monenchengladbach for one year where he studied “Kunst/Gestaltung”. This is a school that included studies of photography, design, technical drawing, paint, graphics and color, which gives Jansen an understanding of basic structure in the arts. He becomes bored and leaves, sighting no further interest. Instead, like Willem de Kooning in his days, Jansen starts an apprenticeship as a commercial house painter where he is first introduced to oil enamel paints which stays his medium of choice. Jansen completes his school and spends much time between Maastricht Netherlands and Germany. He meets “Daisy Dee”, the former host of the German VIVA TV station “Club Rotation”, in 1987 at a nightclub and becomes Jansen’s biggest supporter and starts to commission Jansen. Jansen travels throughout Europe and is exposed to art and culture.
1989 - 1996
Jansen decides to enlist in the US Armed Forces in 1989 and due to an arising conflict is immediately deployed after boot camp to Desert Storm in August of 1990. He returns in April of 1991 and is stationed among many other areas in “Dragon City”, Dharan, close to the most devastating missile attack during the war. On February 25, 1991 Jansen witnesses the explosion from his tower guard duty and is flown by helicopter to the front line battlefield toward end of his tour where he sees the devastation left behind by allied forces which continued to takes it's toll on Jansen.
Returning from his tour, Jansen has more questions than answers. He is deployed to Korea at the DMZ for one year and when back from Korea, Jansen undergoes art therapy treatment at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland. His artwork gets the counselor's attention during art therapy classes.
Jansen is assigned to Germany for his last duty assignment and serves with the 1st Infantry Division in Vilseck Bavaria. He moves in with his then girlfriend Michaela Hansen, an economic major from RWTH Aachen, originally from the former East Germany, in Greifswald.
1997 - 2003
Michaela becomes his wife and the artist’s biggest support during the first part of his career until she passes early in 2011. Jansen, becoming more critical of U.S. interventions and attitudes regarding foreign policies and undeclared military interventions. He discharges honorably in 1997 with the rank of Sergeant after seeing the 1996 released film “Basquiat” by Julian Schnabel. He starts his art career in Aachen, Germany the same year and arranged his own first show is an exhibition at Aula Carolina in Aachen where he is noted by the Aachener Zeitung for the first time since his discharge. For guidance, Jansen approaches Dr. Annette Lagler, Director at the Ludwigs Forum Museum Aachen while living only blocks away from the Museum. He shares photos of work from 1997 and she shares helpful advice for a newly emerging artist. Jansen’s longtime friend Daisy Dee commissions Jansen for two works that are later sold to LL Cool J and Babs, Co-Founder of FUBU clothing and Manager of FUBU Europe. He revisits his old mentor WEST Rubinstein in NY who by now runs a successful PNB Nation clothing line from lower Manhattan and encourages Jansen to continue art.
Jansen decides to leave Aachen Germany and returns to his native New York City to test his work with a larger international audience while having difficulties holding any other jobs. His painting “subway82” is chosen in a NYC Russel Simmons art competition for the semi final round to show at he Copa Cabana Night Club on 57th street in NYC where he meets “Crazy Legs” from the infamous Rock Steady Crew who admirers his work. Jansen sets up on the street corner of Prince Street and Broadway with artist friend Carlos Ramsey to sell works. He becomes part of the group of artists referred to as “Princestreetkings” who display their work on the streets of SOHO in New York. It is then that one of his first buyers is Hollywood Actor John Ortiz, who purchases “Harlem Deli”, 30x40”, while filming a movie with Julian Schnabel in Manhattan. He also sells his highest price street painting for $750 to New York art dealer Monya Rowe. He places works in Ward-Nasse Gallery in Soho and stays in the street to show his work.
Considering family life first, Jansen leaves the streets of New York and moves to Atlanta Georgia in August 2001 with his fiancé. Only two months later the September 11th incident takes place in New York where many of his “princestreetkings” friends witnessed the event and leave the city.
Urban Art enthusiast and lager cultural game changer in Bedstuy Brooklyn Richard Beavers, sees Jansen’s work in an ad in “The Source” magazine. At that time, an MTV employee he becomes Jansen's first U.S. collector. The Brooklyn based collector builds a long lasting relationship with Jansen and later turns art dealer and appears in Jansen’s first film while reselling work to mostly his urban community, placing works with NBA stars like Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks and New York Times noted collector, Peggy Cooper-Cafritz. He moves to Atlanta where first Galleries see his work there.
Jansen starts exploring the human condition in a post 911 era in his work, often working with paradoxes, his own experiences and drawing parallels between historic and contemporary worlds using the urban landscape as stage. In 2003 Jansen receives his first big commission by Ford Motor Company in Detroit.
He moves to Florida with his then wife Michaela and first son, where he continues working, unknowingly in an area not far from where Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein reside.
2004 - 2009
Jansen has the opportunity to show with Rauschenberg in support of a local charity at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in 2004 and is later introduced to him by Musician, Kat Epple after Rauschenberg is seen viewing Jansen’s work at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery and compliments his work. The same year, Jansen meets art historian Jerome A. Donson. The former director of the famous American Vanguard Exhibitions 1961 that traveled to Europe and included Robert Rauschenberg, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and others, discovers Jansen's work while visiting a local theater next to a gallery Jansen was showing at. Donson writes about the artist in Jansen's first French catalog titled “Marcus Jansen Modern Urban Expressionism” in which Donson calls Jansen the “innovator of modern Expressionism” and compares it with ash-can school three years before Donson passes.
Jansen is commissioned by Warner Brothers for it’s 80th anniversary where his work paints a politically critical satire for the Film Company. Jansen is shortly after selected for the 12th International Print & Drawing Biennial in Taiwan with Juror David Kiehl from the Whitney Museum of Art and is one of only nine other Americans selected for the Biennial in 2007. He begins painting large scale works in a post 9/11 era and is influenced by an emerging surveillance state in 2008 and 2009, and addresses politics, social issues, the patenting of pigs DNA and has a painting included in The New Britain Museum of American Art permanent collection as well as the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art who’s founder Crosby Kemper buys three works for his collection.
Robert Casterline co-owner of today’s Casterline Goodman Gallery becomes Jansen’s first international dealer and agent. Mark Gyetvay, an avid art collector from Naples (CFO of the company Novotek, has a keen eye who is noted in the Financial Times becomes Jansen's No 1 collector acquiring the extraordinary work “Creeping Obstacles in Kansas”, which later becomes the cover piece of the MFA alumni selection in the New American Paintings publication.
2010 - 2015
In 2011, Jansen’s longtime supporting wife dies suddenly leaving him with his two sons. During this time Jansen is commissioned by Absolut Vodka. He becomes part of the next generation of Absolut artists and follows in the footsteps of Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Keith Haring. Jansen just barely makes the deadline due to his wife’s illness. The publication New American Paintings also places Jansen’s work “Creeping Obstacles In Kansas” on the cover of Vol. 94, selected by Dan Cameron, Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art.
In 2013, Jansen becomes a winner at the Arte Laguna Biennale Prize in Venice, Italy where he is asked to show in a solo exhibition in Italy for the first time. The show is noted by publications like Rolling Stone, Arte, XL Repubblica and ESPOARTE, that poses the question, “A new star is born”? Jansen’s painting “The Visitors" becomes Jansen’s first to ever be auctioned off in Milan, Italy in 2014; hosted by renowned auctioneer Vittorio Sgarbi - Pagina Ufficiale, curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
Jansen opens a studio space in downtown Fort Myers. In 2015 Naples Noteworthy calls him: “One of the most important American Painters of our Time.” Jansen collaborates with Robert Rauschenberg’s former assistant, Jonas Stirner, in a one year exhibition at the Jansen studios in Fort Myers, UNIT A Studio and Residency. He is later personally introduced to Lawrence Voytek, Rauschenberg’s Art fabricator who will later perform at Jansen's studio with his band “Sonic Combines.”
Sabrina Gruber, a young musician and pianist, becomes Jansen's muse and partner. She is the primary photographer of photos of the artist in his studios. Her most recognizable photo being the photo on Jansen's later to be published Skira Editore book “Marcus Jansen DECADE.”
Jansen’s London Dealer Steve Lazarides, a.k.a BANKSY’s first agent invites Jansen for his first solo show with the gallery “Whistleblower” and becomes Jansen’s UK representative.
2016 - 2018
Perhaps Jansen’s strongest influence over his molding years; His father, mentor Hans Jansen, dies only four months before Jansen’s first solo museum exhibition in Europe at La Triennale di Milano Museum. The show “DECADE - paintings from the last ten years”. The exhibition dominates Italian news headlines and makes the critics pick as top ten shows to see in Italy next to Basquiat, Monet and others. The exhibition is inaugurated by Art Historian Dr Elmar Zorn, curated by Dr Brooke Lynn McGowan and co-curated by Rossella Farinotti. Signed Jansen Museum Catalogs of his first Jansen museum exhibition in Europe were given by sponsor Esmeralda Mapelli to Versace and Armani Milan, Italy.
The same year, Jansen's book, Marcus Jansen DECADE, is published by Skira Editore in Milan. The ten year retrospective of works created over the last decade is released worldwide and the first International film is filmed with director and Emmy award winning filmmaker, John Scoular, who presents Jansen as his main subject for the film, “Examine and Report”, which is later shown at the Fort Myers Film Festival winning “best local film.” The film highlights the influences that made Jansen's work what it is today; featuring art dealer Steve Lazarides, Robert Rauschenberg's art fabricator Lawrence Voytek, Art Historian Dr Brooke Lynn Mcgowan and Jansen's second biggest collector Dieter Rampl, chairman of the Hypo-Kunsthalle Munich, Noah Becker founder of Whitehot Magazine, NY, WEST Rubenstein and others.
German art book publisher Hirmer Verlag Munich publishes Jansen's first International German/English language book for his German museum tour in 2017 called “Marcus Jansen Aftermath.” The book includes text by Art critic Prof Dr Manfred Schneckenburger, the two time Documenta Kassel curator refers to Jansen as “one of the most important American Painters of his generation”, Prof Dr Dieter Ronte, former director of the Kunstmuseum Bonn and Vienna, art critic Gottfried Knapp from the Suddeutsche Zeitung and art curator Dr Elmar Zorn. Dr Birgit Loffler Director of Das Maximum Museum in Traunstein Germany introduces Jansen’s work to Traunstein Germany at the Traunstein Klosterkirche where Jansen shows a series of retrospective works in its last exhibition.
The Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco shows Jansen’s first US Gallery mid career retrospective curated by Dr Brooke Lynn McGowan in conjunction with an upcoming Baker Museum show in Naples who invites Jansen to show. Jansen’s first solo show in Germany takes place at Galerie Kellermann Dusseldorf Germany. In addition Jansen exhibits ten large works as featured artist at the Kallmann Museum Ismaning and a full mid career retrospective at the Zitadelle Museum in Berlin, becomes the first German Museums to celebrate Jansen’s work right before his 50th Birthday.
Robert Casterline and Jordan Goodman from Casterline Goodman Gallery decides to show Jansen in a solo exhibition, “now and then” in Aspen during the 2018 ArtCrush at the Aspen Museum of Art where noted collectors Amy and John Phelan purchase Jansen’s work for their private collection.
Jansen’s permanent collection works are highlighted in his first ever US Museum feature “Deconstructing Marcus Jansen” at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art curated by Jade Powers. Jansen is shortly after approached by curator Dr Gisela Carbonell to show Jansen at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum for his first US traveling Museum solo exhibition in 2020.
The same year Jansen officially announces the Marcus Jansen Foundation.