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 317.

    What is beautiful belongs to the System that supports life on this Earth, the rest of the Universe supports that. Now we are alienated from that System due to the influence of the religions that claim their systems sacred. Consequently we have developed our own sensibility to everything that is devoid of sensibility for life. This is an example of that absence of sensibility for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    Interesting to see so many negative comments - about this not being Art?

    One definition of "art" is to promote discussion on a topic. Looks like it is Art then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    "Art for arts sake,
    Money for Gods sake"

    As the old 10cc song goes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    A Rothko painting is about the interplay of color and depth developed over many layers. He was a serious artist and not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. His work cannot be judged by how it looks in a a photograph or poster. In real life it is exciting to look at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Let's think this through, RobinTheBoyWonder at post 308.
    You could copy Rothko''s painting, but yours would be worthless.
    But if a respected art critic said yours was good, it would be worth a fortune - say, £50 million. The question is, would the respected art critic sell his soul for a half share - £25 million each?

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    To 247 Shibboleth30. Seminal drip.
    Have a look in the dictionary and you will find that in the context it was
    written it means "a work,event or idea strongly influencing later
    development" not in the context you imagine.

  • Comment number 311.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    I don't know about anybody else, but I can see the Emperor's backside...Can you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Opinions is opinions, especially when it comes to art. I don't like Rothko (not because he's an abstract painter - I love Kandinksy - but because I find him simply boring) but clearly SOMEBODY does, or they wouldn't have spent millions on a single canvas. Don't like it? Ignore it. Quite easy to do....

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    "89. FjB
    ... Well if it is so easy, then why not get down the shops, buy a tin of orange, red & yellow, and make yourself a quick £50m+ then?"

    A rather poor argument FjB.
    Contemporary art values tend to be set by the critics:

    If I recreated that painting it would be worthless, but if a respected art critic said it was good it could be worth a fortune.

    That is how it works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    It did not cost Mark Rothko millions to make. It generates precisely 0 jobs, contributes nothing to the economy and the only reason it sold for that amount of money is because a bunch of people that have way more money than they deserve "value it highly". This is the kind of property that should be taxed via a wealth tax. More you pay for this frivolous crap the more tax you pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    I'm always pleased when something like this happens, because it is another reminder that I must be the only sentient being in the universe, and everything else is just my imagination.

    There is no other explanation, for in a real world this, along with countless other egregious events such as the broadcasting of "The only way is Essex/Chelsea/New Jersey/wherever" could not happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Predictable comments abound on this particular HYS (although I do fully agree with them). It's better for the government that we vent our anger on this rather than their refusal to publish the NHS risk register (which we can't comment on).

    I am also concerned by the way that the BBC has done their best to keep such a crucial piece of news under the radar. Shameful.

  • Comment number 304.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 303.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    I offered a bid for cost price of materials, but they didn't entertain it.....wish I'd painted it...! :-P Will be painting the house this summer (weather permitting!)... Southerbys, Christies, etc are welcome to come around and give my work a nominal value. See you all auctions!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    I always consider that anything I could do should not be classed as "ART". I've seen B&Q (other DIY chains are available) paint mixing booths with more interesting detail than this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Is this just money looking for a home? Just send it to charity - I'm sure they will find a use for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    The reason MR created these was to convey a message that could only be conveyed this way. To demand meaning is to bypass the work - which is providing the meaning. If you brusquely point out its simplicity & ease of duplication, then you either do not comprehend or are unwilling to try because its difficult.
    If you don't want to engage, fine, but why denegrate those who do, or the artist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    297 - Your guess is as good as mine. "because it can"... or "it's the buzz, the bolt...the shear *u(k offness of it all". Maybe the person buying loves orange and looking at it moves them. You are more likely to understand the man who painted than the person who bought it.


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