Thursday, August 28, 2008


Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkowitz ( 1903–1970), was a Latvian-born American painter and printmaker who is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he rejected not only the label but even being called an abstract painter. Rothko believed he was "producing an art that would last for 1,000 years". It was a sentiment that was in stark contrast to the new, brash, secularised art emerging in New York in the 1960s.

He emigrated with his mother and sister in the USA in 1913 and went to the New School of Design in 1923 , where one of his instructors was the artist Arshile Gorky.

In his important essay, "
The Romantics Were Prompted" (1949), Rothko observed that the archaic artist found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demigods in much the same way that modern man found intermediaries in Fascism and the Communist Party.

Later Rothko labeled Pop-Art artists "charlatans and young opportunists" and wondered aloud during a 1962 exhibition of Pop Art whether the young artists were plotting to kill us all?

Rothko suffered from an aneurysm in 1968 and committed suicide in 1970. He was entered in Sharon Gardens in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y. Rothko believed he was "producing an art that would last for 1,000 years". Well, somebody said that before and it did not bring him luck.

This picture, an oil on canvas measuring 205 x 141 cm, was painted in 1950 and was for a long time in the propriety of David Rockefeller who put it for sale on auction at Sotheby's New York in 2007. It went for $ 72,8 million to an anonymous collector from Russia. At the end of the bidding, a bidder in the attendance said : "Someone had just bought a Rockfeller."

But times are changing for Rothko. The picture to the right below "Entitled" was on offer at Christie's NYC (NY) in November 2008 and reached only - if I may say- 506,500 dollars vs. a minimum estimate of 600,000-700,000. Talking about this picture Rothko said that he had a sort of religious experience while he made it. Entitled belongs to a series refered as Multiforms.

It is an oil on canvas (45.1 x 37.5 cm.) painted in 1947 (dated as 1946 on Betty Parsons Gallery label). Rothko used to like it very much.
It was first acquired by the Betty Parsons gallery, New York, in 1952.
In 1976, it was exhibited in Tokyo's Seibu Museum of Art during the exhibit Three Decades of American Art selected by the Whitney Museum.

Having said that it is extremely difficult to justify the prices' difference between "Entitled" gone for half a million dollars and "White Center" acquired for over 70 million. Anybody who can come up with a satisfying explanation about this is welcomed to leave a comment. The only -although extremely expensive- justification is that White Center belonged from 1960 to 2007 to David Rockfeller, the 91-year-old retired chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank who purchased it for $8,500 from Eliza Bliss Parkinson, niece of a founder of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Mrs. Parkinson had bought it a few months earlier from Sidney Janis, dealer of Mark Rothko.

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