Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Rothko – what makes the art market tick

A painting sold for a stupendous price of $72.84 million at an auction at the Sotheby, New York on May 16, 2007. I was introduced to this bit of information while watching an old Documentary.  We generally accept that art can be very expensive but this work by Rothko baffled me completely.

Name of the Artwork: White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)
Dimensions: 6’- 9” X 4’ – 8”
Painted in: 1950
Style: Color field – Abstract Expressionism
Name of Artist: Mark Rothko (Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz) An American painter of Russian Jewish descent. 25 September 1903 to 25 February 1970.

I gathered these information but miserably failed to equate the product with its price tag and decided to dig deeper.

Expressionism was an artistic movement of the mid-twentieth century where the artists were at the liberty to convey attitudes and emotions through nontraditional and usually non representation means (Merriam Webster). Tate org further elaborates that this new forms of abstract art was developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning during the 1940s & 1950s. It is often characterized by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making and the impression of spontaneity. They were inspired by the surrealist idea that art should come from the unconscious mind and by the automatism of artist. 

They were broadly classified into two groups:

Action painter – they attacked their canvases with expressive brush strokes. (Jackson Pollock & Willem Kooning.)

Color field painters – filled their canvases with large areas of a single color. (Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman & Clyfford Still)

Now I have a description for our painting. A "color field abstract expressionism" with “superposed color bands of uneven size with blurry edges”.

But I still had my puzzle unresolved. After more deliberation, I found an answer that was somewhat acceptable. 

“Value is not the only link to quality” and there are other factors that influences the value.

In this market where high value art are traded, name of its former owner is as important as the artist and his/her piece of work. The provenance is important.

This particular work of art has been glamorized by its provenance. It was part of the collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller. Part of one of the most powerful family if not the most powerful family in the history of the United States.

The bottom line therefore is "billionaires love to own property of fellow billionaires".

Since then, there were two more similar works by Rothko sold in auctions. Both could be attributed to the "color field - Abstract Expressionism" school.

 
Orange, Red, Yellow
Sold at Christie on 8 May 2012 for $ 86.88 million
 
Painting No 1 (Royal Red and Blue)
Sold at Sotheby on November 2012 for $ 75.1 million

 All images has been downloaded from Wikipedia. In case your are interested to glance at the list of Most Expensive Paintings please click the link.

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