We’ve just listed an original Ron English canvas of Marilyn Monroe with Mickey Mouse boobs called ‘Super Pink Marilyn’ on our website.
I like it for a few reasons and being an early work by the very famous artist Ron English, it has a very personal connection to me.
You see back in 1989 I answered an ad in the Sunday New York Times Art Classifieds. The ad was for ‘original Keith Haring ink drawings’ and I remember the price was something like a few hundred dollars for each drawing.
I called the phone number listed in the ad and spoke to the seller who assured me they were original Keith Haring marker drawings. The seller then provided his address to me and I sent him a check for the works.
A few days later I received a cardboard tube in the mail and inside were indeed three wonderful Keith Haring marker drawings.
The only problem was the marker drawings were not by Keith Haring so I called the seller to tell him I had a bit of a problem with them.
The seller was polite and very apologetic but said they were ‘original Keith Haring drawings’ just not by Keith Haring, they were by another artist.
The seller told me he was actually an artist himself and although not yet as famous as Keith Haring, he one day would be famous. He told me he was a ‘stable artist’ for the world famous Mark Kostabi and his name was Ron English.
Now I am a huge fan of Mark Kostabi and I love his work - you should check out his work from those early years - and Mark is one of those artists I think is hugely undervalued plus very important to the art of the Eighties. More than most other artists. In fact I think Mark is in the top five artists of the eighties. Only behind Warhol, Keith Haring - OK I personally think he is number 3 because his work is affordable and Mark is a really great guy. So he is in the top three for me.
So I tell Ron that’s great that he’s going to be famous but I really don’t want something like what he sent me so could he send me my money back. I think I remember he laughed at me and said no.
He then said I tell you what - because you like Kostabi if you send me more money I will paint you something like a Kostabi but it will be a Ron English which will be really something. I think he mentioned to me about having done something with Warhol a few years before but I am not 100% on that part. So he said he would paint me a Kostabi with Warhol highlights but it would cost me.
I was not sure of what he was going to paint so I asked him if I could send him a wedding photo so he could paint my then-wife who was not really an art fan. I thought it would be really great to have a portrait painted by the future-famous artist Ron English hanging in my house even though I had really no idea of what to expect. So I send off another check for more money and a photograph for Ron to use as a study for the painting.
Once the painting was finished, Ron called me and I made plans to collect the painting from the pop-up gallery where he was planning to show some works. I have the poster somewhere with my art books. I remember it was very Kostabi like in that the wording was about the show of new works by the ‘Worlds second best artist’ which is an obvious compliment to Mark Kostabi was naturally the ‘worlds best artist’!
So my wife and I travel one Friday evening into the City - at the time a gritty and dirty place to be and we run around to find the place hosting the show. The location was reminiscent of the pop-up shows Keith Haring had done with Kenny Scharf and others - mostly in boarded up buildings in boarded up parts of New York City.
When we arrived at the space, Ron was there and we chatted while my wife looked around at the work hanging in the space. Directly in front of the entrance inside in the prime spot was my painting. With the oil still wet and smelling fresh it was indeed part Kostabi with Warhol highlights.
As she looked around she pointed to her very own portrait, not seeing the resemblance at all and said to me “who would buy this stuff?”
Maybe she was hungry?
The painting never hung in the house.
Ron is an amazing talent who has some great art credentials. I still have the books he gave me and although the portrait was the only Ron English painting I ever had, we just acquired the Marilyn and I thought I would introduce the work on my blog.
I think when there is a retrospect of Ron’s work the Marilyn will be his icon and we are very proud to offer this work.