MARCO is a world famous legendary NYC born and bred POP Artist who has been compared to the Keith Haring/Andy Warhol of his generation.
Haring relates in his authorized biography: “I was so crazy about LA II’s tag that I asked him to collaborate with me…The images consisted of his signature and my own..” Soon thereafter, Ortiz left high school to work with Haring. They had their first joint exhibition at Tony Shafrazi gallery in 1982.
men battled with each other, where clunky tanks tumbled down hillsides into mine-fields and impossible planes soared through the crooked clouds!
Not too much has changed, Marco skipped Art school and every project still begins with that same sheet of blank white paper that gets translated onto a sketch on canvas which becomes a painting.
One of the very first commercial pieces Marco created was a mural in a Loft where he and his friends were throwing parties, at first his friends didn’t believe that he did it! Once he convinced them, they
strongly suggested “you could make some money selling that S–t”…uh…stuff…Marco hit the streets to pursue a career in art, and the rest-as they say is HIS story.
Marco took their advice and moved into a $500 dollar a month railroad flat in the Lower East Side in the late 80’s that he transformed into a live in studio/print shop and got a job being a gofer a construction job site in SOHO.
One day while he was going fer coffee for the guys Marco noticed that vendors were pedaling their wares on the corner of Prince and Greene Street, intrigued by concept, Marco made some discreet inquiries and discovered that Larry, the owner Tootsie Plowhound, a trendy shoe store which occupied the corner had started out selling his footwear on the street and had, as a benevolent gesture, put up a chain link fence so that other vendors could pedal their wares. There was no fee involved and the space was available on a first come first served basis.
Not wasting a Moment, Marco brought a roll of his paintings into work the following day and headed out to the corner as soon as he got out of work. Standing in front of his paintings which he had attached to the chain link fence with clothes pins, in his dusty construction clothes and clunky boots, Marco went to work.
Marco made his first sale that day, to a tourist for $75.00 and treated himself to a can of sardines and tomato sauce to go along with his spaghetti, Marco’s style back then wasn’t exactly the style most associate with Marco…
Marco’s first canvas was the walls of his tiny first basement apartment which is why to this day Marco still LOVES to do murals! Marco, like the rest of the world used wall paint in his first basement apartment…when it came to painting canvases, Marco didn’t have a clue what to use…house paint didn’t seem like a plan so Marco thought back to school trips to museums and seeing all those really old dusty paintings with all the tags next to them that said blah blah blah by blah blah Oil on Canvas.. Problem solved! Oil paint it was…It turns out that Oil Paint it wasn’t but it took a while for Marco to figure that which may very well be why some-not all-of these original vintage paintings look a little different than Marco’s current creations…a few are below more are in the store.
For the following year Marco would dutifully, sometimes gracefully, and occasionally charmingly hawk his paintings to passers-by most of whom were too busy to give a passing glance of those that did a fair share became friends and clients so that fifteen years later, some of them like Kenny Dichter and Jesse Itzler, who went on to head up multi million dollar corporations commissioned the former “Prince Of Greene St.” to create original paintings for their celebrity clients…
One time, one of their guys contacted Marco to invite him to come to a RUN DMC concert at the old Reggae lounge on Canal and West Broadway…as soon as Marco heard that one of his favorite high school bands were going to be performing Marco jumped at a chance to see them again-the last time being back in 1984 at the Beacon Theater on Broadway when the show was stopped just after RUN DMC did their first song because someone started shooting…ah the good old days wild and crazy days when NYC was a MONSTER..
In honor of the opportunity to see his beloved band, Marco created Hollis Crew his now iconic RUN DMC tribute piece, not wanting to leave anyone out Marco painted one for Jay, one for Run, and one for DMC.
He also made one for Kenny, one for Jesse, and last but not least one for himself which he later ended up auctioning at Russel Simmon’s “Art for Life” Charity Auction in the Hamptons
Run’s piece would end up being prominently featured on MTV’s Run’s House with Marco making a follow up “BOOMBOX piece that was unveiled on the show and later donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a second one being made to celebrate RUN DMC’s 25th anniversary at Marco’s show at Marc Ecko’s studio.
There is where Marco’s Limited Edition Hollis Crew Marc Ecko tee shirt debuted.
Marco also created a special series of limited edition canvas mini-prints for the show. After JMJ was murdered Marco created a JMJ tribute piece.
Along with a painting for Jay’s foundation, the Scratch DJ Academy.
JMJ had his version of Marco’s Hollis Crew painting hanging in his house Jay. we will never forget you and your contribution to Life, Love, and Music.
One Winter day while truly chillin out in his Marcoart Mobile early one morning, a guy came over to the truck and told Marco that he loved the dj octopus on the side of the truck and asked Marco if he could do one for his son, in the brief conversation that followed Marco learned that the man had a kiosk in the legendary NYC toy store FAO Schwarz one thing led to another.
And by Spring Marco had his own Kiosk in FAO Schwarz which Marco manned himself signing his plush toys and prints for thousands of happy and very hyper kids? Why so hyper?
The Marcoart Kiosk was located right next to FAO’s sprawling FAO Schweetz…that gave Dylan’s Candy bar a run for Best Diabetes Delivery system in Manhattan
Marco’s plush toys flew off the shelves and if FAO hadn’t tragically closed there’s a chance that there wouldn’t be any left but as fate would have it Marco still has some in stock so get one or better yet snag the entire collection Marco had a blast rockin out in his Marcoart Kiosk in FAO.
It turns out Marco was not the only one having fun at his FAO kiosk, his customers-visitors from all over the world, who made FAO one of their must see stops on their bucket list took time out to sign Marco’s guest book at his Kiosk…Looks like Marcoart was at it again…making smiles happen!
Inspired by his stint at FAO Marco with the help of his friend Ivan cranked out some adorable figurines of his Octopus, Owl, Dice, Big Apple, NYC Taxi Cab, and Lady Liberty which are currently available in VERY limited numbers so grab a set today!
No stranger to Food Marco found himself sitting with famed Food Network Chef Aaron Sanchez at his restaurant in Tribecca to chat about chicken and other fun foodstuffs.
Little did Sanchez know that after the interview Marco got busy preparing a especial Aztec surprise painting to knock Aaron’s apron off!
Feeling frisky, and game to prove FOX NEWS wrong for all the Muslim-Bashing it was engaged in under the guise of “Patriotism” Marco headed off to the Middle East.
Marco’s “Middle East Meets Manhattan” was one of the results of Marco’s protracted visit to the UAE…which for those of you who don’t know is short for the United Arab Emirates…no…it’s not Saudi Arabia but it’s kinda close, in it’s history, traditions, laws, customs and physical location.
Marco’s Middle East Meets Manhattan marvelously melds the disparate icons of both cultures in a way only Marcoart can! GET YOURS HERE!
The originals which survived an airlift to the Philippines, an evacuation to Japan and a repatriation to the NYC, USA and are available on a first served basis. For those who like the work but for whatever reason prefer to own a print, are afforded that option
Marco, like most expats who eventually find themselves feeling like they are spinning in Circles at some point of their extended stay in an inhospitable place made the most of the situation and through the use of an extended metaphor expressed his sense of hopeless helplessness that plagued his stay in the Emirates in song ironically titled “I LOVE FUJAIRAH” Lyrics and vocals by Marco who never lets his lack of singing ability prevent him from performing, and Music by legendary Brit Rocker Steve Sackman who saw in Marco a fellow stranded traveler
“rolling round and round the roundabout”
Marco capped off his extended stay in the UAE with a FUJAIRAH ROCKS art show and concert that made the sleepy emirate not only POP but eclipse trendy overpriced and hyped Dubai in down home coolness for a hot second.
Rewinding to 1990, after a year of SOHO street sales Marco ditched his Clinton street digs and moved into a tiny storefront on Orchard and Hester Street in the lower East Side.
Which as fate would have it just happened to be on the same block where his Great Great Great Grandfather Rabbi Kaplan had his own store called “OK Kneepants” so by kismet Marco was drawn back to the much heralded land of his forefathers, steps away from the Jewish Daily Forward Building, where the first Yiddish Daily was printed in New York City, Kosars Bialys one of the first Bialy bakeries in New York-or maybe it was just blind luck..
If you don’t know what a Bialy is, it’s like a bagel that fell off the bagel truck and got run over…If you don’t know what s bagel is…here’s a somewhat accurate picture
and down the block from Continental Sportswear a tee shirt wholesaler run by a charming Hasidic gent named Mr. Wolf who unbeknownst to him would play a critical role in the evolution of “Marco the Artist” to “Marcoart the brand”
As soon as Marco realized that it was going to be hard to make rent selling his colorful canvases on the borderline of Chinatown on Orchard St. in the Lower East Side.
Marco again reached out to his friends for advice and his pal Matt told him to do what he did; buy some used tee shirt printing equipment and print his designs and custom orders. Good thing he listened!
Not only was Marco able to pay the rent but in 1995 he re-located his Art-Gallery-Studio-Boutique-Tee-shirt-Printing-plant a few blocks up Orchard Street just below Houston on the advice of a former leather coat vendor turned budding real estate mogul by the name of Sion Misrahi.
Sion saw in Marco the perfect bait fish to dangle in front of other potential commercial tenants who, Sion hoped, would pump life, and more importantly lift property values, and his broker fees, on the then completely deserted stretch of streets below Houston.
Sion met up with Marco on Orchard Street in front of building number 186, a one story “taxpayer” commercial space between East Houston Street and Stanton Street. It’s 25 foot street frontage was split down the middle and divided into two stores the left store was inhabited by a Jacob Hauptman. Jacob sold socks, underwear, shirts, he had inherited his store: “J. Hauptman Haberdashery” from his father which at that time was one of innumerable stores of it’s type selling wholesale and retail garments and flourishing thanks in no small part to the lack of big box discount chain stores, online shopping, and the old NYC blue laws which allowed people of the Jewish faith who ran stores like J. Hauptman to do business on the Christian Sabbath so that they, who’s Sabbath fell on Saturday would not miss out on the entire weekend of retail.
Needless to say when Marco moved in next door you couldn’t have asked for a more odd couple. Despite appearances, Marco and Jacob became fast best friends with Jacob later letting Marco rent his half of the basement from him so Marco could expand his tee shirt printing business.
To say the Lower East Side was dead back in those days is an understatement…how dead was it?
In order to drum up business Marco would have his DJ friends come over on Saturday night and set up their turntables in the split level loft Marco had built in the back of the cavernous space 100 foot deep by 12 foot wide by 16 foot ceiling space out of which stretched a catwalk that hugged the wall which dead ended into a fire pole down which Marco would slide to greet the customers.
Marco would throw these “Club Soda” parties every Saturday night..the “Bar” consisted of a huge vat of rather strong punch that was served up for a whopping $2 a glass. The parties, as parties tend to do,
went on till the wee hours leaving Marco just about enough time to clean the place up and open for Sunday morning sales with the scent of slightly stale beer in the air.
Many times the NYPD would show up during the parties, not to complain or to arrest or harass but to suggest to Marco that he send some guys to stand out on the corner of East Houston and Orchard to send more customers. It seems the cops were actually happy to have Marco and his well-lit store brightening up the block since it turns out that unlike moths the many, how shall we say, shady characters: drug dealer, muggers, thieves behaved much the same way cockroaches do when bright light is shined on them..that’s right they scatter…
Marco’s store it seems, in those early days was a crime deterrent, an interesting an wholly unintended but no less welcomed side effect of opening a store in a desolate economically depressed crime-riddled area, unintended since Marco was just doing what artists do-moving into beat up run down neighborhoods only to later be priced out by the tsunami of gentrification that inevitably follows.
Sion the real estate agent chose well when he picked Marco to be his bait-fish..in short order other independent entrepreneurs started moving into the neighbor hood.
Marco who had been elected to the Vice President of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District by this time saw the big building developers swoop down on his block buying up half of his side of the street kicking out DDC Lab, the original A-Life and all the original growth mid-90’s era forest that pre-dated the current hippifaction of the LES by 15 years.
Marco remained for a bit longer moving across the street to 181 Orchard street-the only building not demolished to make way for the Thompson Hotel at which point he bid the block but not the Lower East Side a fond farewell simultaneously content and ashamed at the pretentious overpriced monster he’d unintentionally spawned.
Marco went on to launch his Marcoart Mobile, that rolling gallery of his very finest pop art creations and daily thanks his lucky stars he didn’t get stuck sitting in a store in the Lower East Side for the rest of his life especially now that the brick and mortar stores are fighting a loosing battle to e commerce…Marco was in the LES long before it was “hip” or “cool” to have an art gallery there hell he was in NYC when tourists were afraid to come here…
Don’t think for a minute that Marco yearns for a long-gone but not forgotten NYC of yesteryear when Times Square was full of strip clubs, you could bribe cops, and Chock full of Nuts.
Not Starbucks was where you went to get a regular cup of coffee not moca roasted caramel java with a cherry on top…
Marco doesn’t live in the past…and unlike Clayton Patterson…he’s not ready to give up on NYC just yet, maybe because unlike Clayton, Marco was born here or maybe because he doesn’t need to, you see, Marco knows those times are coming back.
It’s funny how the rise in crime creates the inverse in property values and the influx of clueless neophyte faux New Yorkers who think Bloomberg’s corporate theme park, sanitized shell won’t split at the seams releasing the monster New York once was…a monster which for better and worse is alive and well in anyone who was born here and grew up in the NYC of the late 60’s and 70’s…a monster who Marco wholly credits for his ability to persistently ply his Pop Art trade, high on the energizing life that Manhattan still supplies in spades.