Museums are an odd business they make a star by hanging a painting on a wall or installing a sculpture in a gallery. We often accept a work is worthy simply because it is exhibited within a coveted institution. It is, after all, the museum's acceptance of an artist's work that make it valuable. Their endorsement will quickly catapult the creator into the orbit of the world's most elite collectors and onto further fame.
Over 50 million tourists visit NYC annually. Most find their way into at least one exhibition. Whether it's Wyeth, Van Gogh or Mondrian, in NYC, every moment of the day, someone is studying art -- transfixed on its message, subject, style or execution. Most art is presented to us. It's rare we get to discover a treasure before it has been mined.
Step outside NY's most monumental and marvelous Museum of Modern Art onto 53rd street, and across the street just a few feet east of the hotdog and a Halal Guys, on the south side of 53rd -- right near the MOMA store -- you'll find NY's most talented treasure, working -- unbeknownst to him -- toward hard-earned artistic stardom.
Mark Nilsson has been painting portraits for nearly three years outside the MoMA. He sets up a card table, stands waiting with the posture of a confident man driven to work until a savvy subject pays an amount that constitutes a steal to sit for their portrait. He mixes his paints, preps the paper, and within minutes is staring into your soul. His style isn't street; it's more frenetic and free, purposeful and lasting. His work is jarring, his colors narrative, and his intuitive insight into his sitter's very being is that of a master.
Sitting for Mark you quickly sense the cooperative effort between subject and artist. His gaze, the speed of his strokes beg you to bare your truth as eyes connect -- creating not just a portrait but a beautiful painting. After roughly 45 minutes Mark declares his work done, and you stand up to see yourself as never before. The scars of your soul, the winds of time -- ultimately, your beauty -- are all there. He encapsulates your life. Mark Nilsson has a talent like none other.
The New York Times called Mark "the starving artist at MoMA's doors." I get that. But with any luck and some creative curators and canny collectors, Mark will someday be in the MoMA, looking down on 53rd and remembering when his treasures were a steal of a deal.