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Back to Mark Rothko, No.1 (Royal red and blue), 1954

Miguel López-Remiro Forcada, Director of the Museo Universidad de Navarra, publisher of the Anthology of Mark Rothko Texts, Yale University Press.

Mark Rothko, No.1 (Royal network and blue), 1954

Thu, 15 Nov 2012 14:51:19 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

Sothebys November 13, 2012. A piece by Mark Rothko from 1954, from an important private collector, goes on auction with an auction price range between 35 and 50 million dollars. The final price that the piece finally reaches the amount of 75 million dollars.

A few months ago, Christie's auctioned a painting by the same artist dated 1961 for 86.9 million dollars. These data allow us to appreciate the consolidation in the market value of this artist.

Rothko, born Markus Rothkowitz in the city of Dvinsk, Russia, now Latvia, in 1903, is considered today as one of the most important representatives of the culture of our time. The son of Jewish pharmacists, he fled Russia, without knowing English, to settle in the city of Portland, in the State of Oregon, USA, with his family. A few years later he obtained a scholarship to study at Yale. After two years of programs of study he leaves the University with the idea of becoming an actor, an intention that he abandons after the visit that he makes to an art workshop, moment in which he decides to dedicate all his life to painting. The year was 1923. He was already in New York and, in a few years, he would star in the emergence of the artistic group known as "The New York School", group heterogeneous artists who represent the change of the artistic center of gravity from Paris to New York.

Rothko undertook an unparalleled degree program , and his classic style, characterized by multi-layered stripes of overlapping colors, a constant style that he would not abandon after the early 50s, is still considered a total reference in contemporary visual culture. There are many artists who speak of Rothko as a visionary in the development of a way of approaching painting in which abstraction, pure painting, is a way to reflect his interest in the work of art as a space of communication, where the viewer becomes the activator of the work. Rothko in 1969, a year before his death, the year in which he made the work donated by María Josefa Huarte to the Museo Universidad de Navarra, received the doctorate Honoris Causa by Yale. At that time he stated that purpose was fundamental to his work, the generation of spaces of silence where the viewer could "take root and grow".

The piece No.1, 1954 now auctioned occupies a privileged place in the degree program of this painter, and it was one of the nine works exhibited in his first individual exhibition in a museum B: the Art Institute of Chicago, exhibition that has become over the years one of the most celebrated exhibitions in the degree program of Mark Rothko. That exhibition included recent works by this artist, works that today are in some of the most important international museums, such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Whitney Museum of American Art or the Phillips Collection in Washington. Another important fact that demonstrates the importance of this exhibition is that Rothko's heirs own two of the paintings that were exhibited there. Along with No.1, 1954, until yesterday in the hands of a single collector for the last thirty years, there is only one other work from that Chicago exhibition in a private collection.

Mark Rothko took that exhibition very seriously, corresponding with the curator of the exhibition, Katherine Kuh. This correspondence is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable witnesses to the importance that Rothko attached to his work. Thus one can read: "My concerns about my paintings are moral and have nothing to do with anything less than aesthetic or historical questions"; or when speaking of his refusal to include a foreword in the catalog of that exhibition he states: "if there is need and spirit, there are the makings for a real transaction (between work and spectator)".

In that correspondence we also find the economic value that Rothko gave precisely to this piece: No.1, 1954 is the last of the list included in his letter. And it had an asking price of $2,500.