Mark Rothko vs. the art market

This video is about Mark Rothko.

From British daily The Morning Star:

In rage against the art market

(Monday 13 October 2008)

Tate Modern
, London SE1

CHRISTINE LINDEY looks at the latest show of Rothko‘s work with an eye toward his anti-capitalist leanings.

BORN in Russia in 1903, Marcus Rothkowitz emigrated to the US in 1913, where he shortened his name to Rothko. He never forgot the tsarist persecutions of his childhood nor lost his relish for intense political and philosophical debate common to his Jewish upbringing.

By the early 1920s, he was a socialist and, in the early 1930s, he joined the anti-fascist, anti-capitalist Artists Union, which was sympathetic to the young Soviet Union. At this time, his work was socially concerned and figurative.

But the limitations of realism and a disillusionment with the Stalinist cultural policies of the late 1930s led him to move towards looser modernist styles which allowed for more ambiguous content. By 1948, his work was abstract.

However, Rothko remained opposed to capitalism’s crass commercial values. A humanist to the end, he wanted to make art which makes a difference, saying: “I have never thought that painting a picture has anything to do with self-expression. It is a communication about the world to someone else.” …

Despite Rothko’s seriousness of intent and bohemian disdain for monetary reward, his work had become highly collectable by the bourgeoisie, whose values he despised.

To combat such superficial interpretations, he turned to moody maroons, burgundies, blacks and greys and increasingly thought of his works as series to create environments which immersed the viewer in a way that no single canvas could.

This change of direction began in 1958 with the mural commission for the Four Season restaurant in the Seagram building, a new Manhattan sky scraper.

Rothko was always ambivalent about accepting this commission. Reputedly disgusted by the restaurant’s prices, he said: “I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who eats in that room.”

He pulled out of the contract when he realised that the ambience of an exclusive restaurant would not suit these new brooding meditations on tragedy.

In 1969, Rothko donated eight of them to London’s Tate Gallery on condition that they be displayed as a single environment.

He was dead a year later.

No-one ever knows why another person kills themselves, but some have suggested that Rothko’s suicide at the height of his financial and critical success was partly prompted by his impotent rage at the crassness of the art market, which attached monetary value to works intended to combat such venal values.

A $310m cache of Rothko paintings, sold earlier this year by one of the key financiers involved in the Madoff scandal, will go on show at Moscow’s Garage Centre for Contemporary Art next spring. The centre was founded in 2008 by Russian heiress Dasha Zhukova and her billionaire partner Roman Abramovich: here.

Robert Hughes: A refreshingly frank comment on the art market: here.

4 thoughts on “Mark Rothko vs. the art market

  1. Pingback: Swedish nazis attack ‘degenerate art’ | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  3. Pingback: Billion-dollar sales of poor artists’ work | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Indian Progressive Artists’ Group, New York exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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