MARK ROTHKO

Exhibition From 18.10.2023 to 02.04.2024

Mark Rothko, No. 14, 1960. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Helen Crocker Russell Fund purchase. © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp, Paris, 2023 © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage

The Fondation Louis Vuitton presents the first retrospective in France dedicated to Mark Rothko (1903-1970) since the exhibition held at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1999. The retrospective brings together some 115 works from the largest international institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Tate in London and the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., and from international private collections, including the artist's family collection.

Displayed chronologically across all of the Fondation’s spaces, the exhibition traces the artist’s entire career: from his earliest figurative paintings to the abstract works that he is most known for today.

“I became a painter because I wanted to raise painting to the level of poignancy of music and poetry.”

Mark Rothko

The exhibition opens with intimate scenes and urban landscapes – such as visions of the New York subway – that dominate Rothko’s output in the 1930s, before his transition to a repertoire inspired by ancient myths and surrealism which Rothko uses to express the tragic dimension of the human condition during the War.

From 1946, Rothko makes an important shift towards abstract expressionism. The first phase of this switch is that of Multi-forms, where chromatic masses are suspended in a kind of equilibrium on the canvas. Gradually, these decrease in number, and the spatial organization of his painting evolves rapidly towards Rothko’s “classic” works of the 1950s, where rectangular shapes overlap according to a binary or ternary rhythm, characterized by shades of yellow, red, ochre, orange, but also blue, white… 

Vue d'installation de l'exposition Mark Rothko, galerie 2, niveau -1, salle Multiformes et début des oeuvres dites« classiques »© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp,Paris, 2023

In 1958, Rothko is commissioned to produce a set of wall paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant designed by Philip Johnson for the Seagram Building in New York – the construction of which is overseen by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Rothko later decides not to deliver the paintings and keeps the entire series. Eleven years later, in 1969, the artist donates nine of these paintings – which differ from the previous ones on account of their deep red hues – to the Tate Gallery, which dedicates a room in its collections exclusively to Rothko. this series is exceptionally presented in the Fondation exhibition.

In 1960, the Phillips Collection dedicates a permanent room – the first “Rothko Room” – to the artist. The room is designed in close collaboration with him and is also featured in the exhibition. In 1961, the Museum of Modern Art in New York organizes the first major retrospective, an exhibition that subsequently travels to several European cities (London, Basel, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome, and Paris). In the 1960s, Rothko accepts other new commissions, most notably the chapel John and Dominique de Menil in Houston, which is inaugurated in 1971 and named the Rothko Chapel

Vue d'installation de l'exposition Mark Rothko, galerie 9, niveau 2, salle Les années 1960 © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp, Paris, 2023

While Rothko favors darker tones and muted contrasts since the late 1950s, the artist never completely abandons his palette of bright colors, as evidenced by several paintings from 1967 and by the last red painting left unfinished in his studio. Even in the case of the 1969-1970 Black and Grey series, a simplistic interpretation of the work, associating grey and black with depression and suicide, is best avoided.

These works are displayed in the tallest room in the Frank Gehry building, alongside Alberto Giacometti’s large-scale sculptural figures, creating an environment that is close to what Rothko had in mind for a UNESCO commission that was never realized.

The permanence of Rothko’s questioning, his desire for wordless dialogue with the viewer, and his refusal to be seen as a “colorist” are all elements allowing a new interpretation of his multifaceted work in this exhibition.

Curators:

Suzanne Pagé and Christopher Rothko 

with 

François Michaud

and 

Ludovic Delalande, Claudia Buizza, Magdalena Gemra, Cordélia de Brosses

Visiting tools

The Fondation Louis Vuitton App

Download the new Fondation Louis Vuitton app. It offers exclusive sections to prepare, to approach, to visit and to extend your experience. Discover new visit contents around the exhibitions of the moment with lighting of the curators and explanations on the works indicated in the routes.

Twelvy Twelvy

With Twelvy, the Fondation's chatbot, discover the works of Rothko in the game "Your Rothko Palette", and explore the exhibition on an interactive tour. Click on the icon at the bottom right of your screen!

Plan Interactive brochure

Discover the Fondation interactive guide with the visit plan

Short Tours

Led by specialised guides, micro-tours are a chance to discover slowly the exhibition. Designed to be enjoyed either alone or in a small group, these tours are the perfect introduction. In weekdays and weekends, every 30 minutes.

Game book

  • Game book

    For every exhibition, the Fondation Louis Vuitton and the French children’s magazine Georges create an original game book for kids ages 7 through 12!

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