Marks owns a trio of spaces in Chelsea, where he represents a slew of contemporary artists like Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Robert Gober, and Nan Goldin. He's also one of the founders of the Armory Show.
The hyper-connected Marks grew up in a privileged Manhattan family: His father, Dr. Paul Marks, headed Sloan-Kettering from 1980 to 1999 and his mother, who taught genetics at Sarah Lawrence, counts Barbara Walters as one of her closest friends. Marks began collecting art at the tender age of 13—he asked for a painting in lieu of a bar mitzvah—and attended Columbia for two years before transferring to Bennington. (Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tartt, and Jonathan Lethem were his contemporaries there.) After interning at the Pace Gallery during college vacations, Marks opened his first gallery on the Upper East Side in 1989, paying $6,000-a-month rent for a 1,000-square-foot space on upper Madison Avenue by selling off some of the art he bought as a teenager. In 1994, he hightailed it down to Chelsea, becoming the first major gallerist to move there.
Occasionally described as the Leo Castelli of his generation, Marks now presides over a stable of artists that includes Nan Goldin, Robert Gober, Ellsworth Kelly, Ugo Rondinone, and Brice Marden. The comparison to Castelli is based in part on the fact that one of Castelli's most prized artists, Jasper Johns, decided to go with Marks when he exhibited new work in 2005, his first major showing since his 1996 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and following Castelli's death in 1999. Landing Johns amounted to the coup of the year for Marks—Johns' 40 new paintings went for $2 to $4 million each, and cemented Marks' position in the top echelon of dealers.
Word on the street
The hyper-ambitious Marks has a reputation for coddling his artists, calling them daily and tending to their every need—an approach not necessarily shared by his competitors (like the globe-trotting Larry Gagosian).
On the side
Along with three other gallerists—Paul Morris, Pat Hearn, and Colin de Land—Marks co-founded the Armory Show in 1994, which has since become one of the preeminent art fairs in the world. (Katelijne de Backer oversees the show these days.) Originally called the Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair, it adopted its new name in 1999 when it moved to the Armory on Park Avenue.
Marks's longtime boyfriend is former ArtForum editor-in-chief Jack Bankowsky. (When Bankowsky was at the magazine, critics accused him of improperly plugging Marks's Armory Show.) The two share a townhouse on Greenwich Street.