At least five bidders competed for Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) from the collection of David Rockefeller, which sold for $72,800,000 to an anonymous buyer over the telephone to a wave of applause, setting a new record for a contemporary post war work of art at auction, as well as for the artist. MARK ROTHKO
It was sold by 91-year-old David Rockefeller. That bought it for $8,500.00 in 1960.
The painting used to hang in his office when he was chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank from 1961 to 1981. Friedrich Nietzsche's great book The Birth of Tragedy had a profound effect on Rothko. Nietzsche's idea that the artist has the power to transform tragedy into beauty is very close to Rothko's central truth and the primary reason for the exceptional grace in his work. His anxiety and paranoia about his work was intense. He felt himself in competition with every other artist, alive and dead. Rothko seems to have become increasingly unsure whether his paintings truly had the effect on viewers for which he hoped. From the late Fifties, Rothko's work grew darker. "I curse God daily," he confessed, "because men are born to die."
In 1964 Rothko received in many ways the perfect commission from John and Dominique de Menil, a pair of enlightened patrons from Houston, Texas. It was to produce a series of paintings for a chapel, a meditative, sacred space effectively dedicated to the mystery of his own work. In 1967 he completed the paintings for The Rothko Chapel.
In the spring of 1968, Rothko suffered an aneurysm of the aorta, a result of his chronic high blood pressure. Ignoring doctor’s orders, Rothko continued to drink and smoke heavily, avoid exercise and to maintain an unhealthy diet. However, he followed the advice not to paint pictures larger than a yard in height and turned his attention to smaller formats, including acrylics on paper. Rothko and his wife Mell separated on New Year’s Day 1969, and he moved into his studio. On February 25, 1970, Oliver Steindecker, Rothko’s assistant, found the artist in his kitchen, lying dead on the floor in front of the sink, covered in blood. His arms had been sliced open with a razor lying at his side. During autopsy it was discovered he had also overdosed on anti-depressants. He was 66 years old.