A Rothko for Crystal Bridges | Rock Candy

A Rothko for Crystal Bridges

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Rothko at CBMAA: No. 210/No. 211 (Orange).
  • Rothko at CBMAA: ""No. 210/No. 211 (Orange)."

The headline on a story in artinfo about Crystal Bridges announcement over the weekend that a 1960 Rothko has been acquired was this:

"Crystal Bridges Acquires Major Rothko Painting in Response to Criticisms of Post-War Holdings"

The Wall Street Journal took the same tack in its story, "A Rothko Fills a Museum's Breach."

Here's one way of looking at those headlines: that the art world, which once ridiculed the notion that a first-rate museum could be located in Arkansas, then produced accolades about the collection, now demands Crystal Bridges be even better. I'm not sure I remember the museum being criticized for whatever it lacks in color field and New York School works, though the baby steps into the post-war work in the collection was noted.

At any rate, I don't think Alice Walton bought a Rothko in response to art reviews. I think she was waiting, as was director Don Bacigalupi, until she decided upon which Rothko to buy from what was available. When she buys a large Frankenthaler, it won't be because I wrote here that the museum's 20th century collection is frail without it.

Enough of that. The Rothko is the unidentified major work of art that was announced last month in a press release about the exhibition "See the Light: The Luminist Tradition in American Art," which runs Oct. 13-Jan. 28. Eye Candy previously speculated that Alice Walton could have purchased a Jackson Pollock that had been sold and had the same characteristics as the Rothko: Both had been in private hands and not exhibited for many years. Oh, well.

Crystal Bridges has not disclosed the purchase price, but it's worth noting that at Christie's May auction of American art a similar Rothko ( “Orange, Red, Yellow,” painted in 1961) went for "just under $87 million," according to the New York Times. However, the Wall Street Journal said Pace Gallery president Marc Glimcher "pegged it at about $25 million." It was bought from a private Swiss collection.


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