Rothko painting sells for record price

A 1950 oil painting by the Latvia-born American artist Mark Rothko has sold for a record price of USD 72.8 million, the auction house Sotheby’s announced May 15 in New York.

The painting, “White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose),” was described by Sotheby’s as “the first fully-realized painting of Mark Rothko’s mature style—the canvas with which Rothko succeeded in articulating the painterly dialectic that he would maintain throughout the remaining decades of his career.” The Abstract Expressionist painting, never before offered at auction, was in the private collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller, who acquired it in 1960.

“At first glance, the unwary viewer might discern little more than a mere four shapes arrayed upon a ground,” art historian David Anfam wrote of the painting. “Look closer, though, and everything becomes changeful, nuanced and contrapuntal—like a fugue of feelings translated into colors.”

The auction house had estimated the Rothko painting would sell for more than USD 40 million. An anonymous bidder bought the painting.

The painting measures 205.8 centimeters by 141 centimeters (81 inches by 55.5 inches).

Rothko (1903-1970) was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Daugavpils. His family moved to the United States in 1913.

Rothko painting

A 1950 oil painting by Latvia-born artist Mark Rothko has sold for a record price, auction house Sotheby’s announced. (Image courtesy of Sotheby’s)

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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