Sotheby’s to offer important Mark Rothko painting May 16

Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko, ‘Untitled,’ oil on canvas, 69 by 50 1/8 in. Executed in 1960. Estimate $35/50 million. © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

NEW YORK – Sotheby’s will offer Mark Rothko’s Untitled, 1960, on behalf of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in May to benefit the institution’s acquisitions fund.

An important work completed at the apex of Rothko’s artistic powers, Untitled is one of 19 paintings completed by the artist in 1960. This year marks a critical juncture in the iconic Abstract Expressionist’s career, following his defining commission of the Seagram Murals (1958-59) and his representation of the United States in the XXIX Venice Biennale (1958) – organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which would subsequently hold Rothko’s first and only major lifetime retrospective in 1961. Untitled, 1960 is distinguished further by its connection to Peggy Guggenheim, preeminent philanthropist and patron of the 20th century.

Untitled will travel to London, Taipei and Hong Kong, before returning to New York for exhibition and auction. The painting is estimated to sell for $35/50 million in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on May 16.

Untitled, 1960 is being sold in order to broadly diversify SFMOMA’s collection, enhance its contemporary holdings and address art historical gaps in order to continue to push boundaries and embrace fresh ideas,” said Neal Benezrad, director of SFMOMA.

Untitled, 1960 embodies Rothko’s creative crescendo and the full maturation of his extraordinary artistic practice. Committed to more intensively exploring the power of art to elicit strong emotional reactions, the artist began to abandon his characteristic bright colors of the 1950s, in favor of more romantic and spiritual deep reds and burgundies. The subdued color palette of deep burgundy, warm blush, royal blue, black-gray and ephemeral cloud-white is reminiscent of the palette he explored in the famed Seagram Murals, a portion of which remains on view at the Tate Modern.