Before this week, the price of $86.3 million, paid for Francis Bacon's 'Triptych', 1976, in 2008 was the most expensive post-war artwork ever sold at auction. But now Mark Rothko's Orange, Red, Yellow has been sold for $86.9 million (£53.8m).
Art collectors of Art Kabinett social network are amazed at the stratospheric prices now playing out in the auction world.
The painting was executed in 1961, and was sold at Christie's in New York. The monumental sale contributed to the auction house’s total takings of $388.5m (£240.5m), breaking their personal contemporary art record set in 2007.
Last night’s sale was also a personal best for Mark Rothko, with the most being paid for one of his works at auction previously being $72.84m (£45m). Another £10m: not bad.
And last night, a number of records were set for other artists. Yves Klein's FC1 went for $36.5m (£22.6m). Jackson Pollock's Number 28 fetched $23m (£14.2m). And an untitled work by Willem de Kooning went for $14.1m (£8.7m).
It must be something in the water. Only last week, the auction of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ lived up to all the hype, selling for an incredible $119.9 million – the most expensive piece of art to ever sell at auction, smashing the previous record held by Picasso’s ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’, which went under the hammer for $106.5 million.
Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkowitz (September 25, 1903 – February 25, 1970), was a Russian-American painter. He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he himself rejected this label, and even resisted classification as an "abstract painter".
In 1936, Rothko began writing a book, never completed, about similarities in the art of children and the work of modern painters. According to Rothko, the work of modernists, influenced by primitive art, could be compared to that of children in that "child art transforms itself into primitivism, which is only the child producing a mimicry of himself." In this manuscript, he observed that "the fact that one usually begins with drawing is already academic. We start with color."
Rothko was using fields of color in his aquarelles and city scenes, and his subject matter and form at this time had become non-intellectual.
Rothko's work matured from representation and mythological subjects into rectangular fields of color and light, that later culminated – or self-destructed – in his final works for the Rothko Chapel.
However, between the primitivist and playful urban scenes and aquarelles of the early period, and the late, transcendent fields of color, was a period of transition. It was a rich and complex milieu which included two important events in Rothko’s life: the onset of World War II, and his reading of Friedrich Nietzsche.