Mark Rothko work sold for record $86.9m at auction

Orange, red, yellow by Mark Rothko Orange, red, yellow was painted in 1961

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Mark Rothko's Orange, red, yellow has been sold for $86.9 million (£53.8m) - the highest price ever fetched by a piece of contemporary art at auction.

The 1961 painting went under the hammer at Christie's in New York.

The auction house said the sale's total takings - $388.5m (£240.5m) - exceeded the previous record for a contemporary art auction, set in 2007.

Last week a version of Edvard Munch's The Scream set a new world record after selling at auction for $119.9m (£74m).

Prior to Tuesday's sale, the most paid for a Mark Rothko work at auction was $72.84m (£45m).

Francis Bacon's Triptych held the previous record for a piece of post-war art, having sold for $86.3m (£53.4m) in 2008.

The seven-minute auction saw the hammer drop at $77.5 m (£48m) before commission

A total of 14 artists recorded new highs for their works on Tuesday, with only three of the 59 lots on offer failing to sell.

Among the new records set include the $36.5m (£22.6m) paid for Yves Klein's FC1, a piece created with water, two models and a blowtorch shortly before the French artist's 1962 death.

Jackson Pollock's Number 28, 1951, one of the artist's seminal drip paintings, fetched $23m (£14.2m), while an untitled 1980 work by Willem de Kooning went for $14.1m (£8.7m).

Another high-profile contemporary art auction takes place on Wednesday, when Roy Lichtenstein's Sleeping Girl goes under the hammer at Sotheby's in New York.

The estimated value for the 1964 "Pop Art" piece has been put between $30m (£18.5m) and $40m (£24.7m).


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  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Let's clear something up shall we. When something changes hands for money it stops being art and becomes commerce, End of story! ART is FREE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    For my Art GCE I painted the entire canvas in blue and then added an orange square for good measure.

    It took me 15 minutes and then spent the rest of the exam twiddling my fingers.

    I didn't get paid £53.8m for it nor did I even pass the exam - where's the justice in that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Please do a Google Images search on Mark Rothko to see the mind-blowing breadth of this genius' expansive imagination.

    I could understand if the one recently sold was a one-off, capturing a particular mood or object. It would mean something. But this man seems to have built his career on one idea; an idea that requires absolutely no talent. That is why I do not like this picture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Anyone who thinks this is easy to paint is completely wrong! This takes so much skill. Just because contemporary art is challenging to understand and isn't laid on a plate for the viewer does not mean that 'a two year old could do that!' Also anyone who believes Rothko is greedy or wealthy is wrong, he committed suicide over 40 years ago. The ignorance of some people is staggering!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    I know some of you will look down your nose at me but when I look at art I want to be amazed at the skill of the artist - like Leonardo de Vinci and know I could live a thousand years and never be able to paint like that. Slapping orange paint on canvas doesn't do it for me. Whoever bought this knows the value of nothing.


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