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Mark Rothko
The Late Series
The first major exhibition dedicated to the late works of Mark Rothko (1903-1970), one of America’s most important and
iconic post-war painters, will open at Tate Modern this September. Focusing on the final part of his career between 1958
and 1970, the exhibition will comprise around 50 works, including paintings and works on paper.
Bringing together an exceptional group of 15 Seagram murals, the exhibition will offer an unprecedented opportunity to
experience this seminal body of work. For the first time in their history the nine Tate Seagram murals (known as the
‘Rothko room’) will be joined by a selection of related Seagram paintings from the collections of the Kawamura
Memorial Museum of Art, Japan, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It will be the first time the Kawamura
Memorial Museum of Art will have lent their works to an international exhibition since they joined its collection in the
late 1980s.
The Seagram murals will be shown alongside other landmark series of Rothko’s paintings, including five Black-Form
paintings (1964), a group of large-scale Brown on Gray works on paper (1969), and examples from his last series Black
on Gray, made in 1969–70. Commissioned in 1958 the Seagram murals were intended to adorn the exclusive Four
Seasons restaurant in Manhattan’s newly built Seagram
building, designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip
Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon 1959, Tate © 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel Johnson. Rothko constructed a scaffold in his studio to
and Christopher Rothko, 266.7 x 238.8
create a replica space of the restaurant to work in.
Though the original commission was meant to
encompass only seven paintings, Rothko eventually
painted 30 canvases.
The bright and intense colours of his earlier paintings
made way to maroon, dark red and black, and Rothko
soon realised that the brooding character of his latest
creations required a very different environment to the
one they had been commissioned for. Rothko saw the
Seagram paintings as objects of contemplation,
demanding the viewer’s complete absorption. He made
reference to Michelangelo’s works in the Laurentian
Library in Florence, with its deliberately oppressive
atmosphere, commenting that Michelangelo ‘achieved
just the kind of feeling I’m after - he makes the viewers
feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors
and windows are bricked up’. He took the decision to
withdraw from the restaurant commission.
Shortly before his death in 1970, Rothko presented nine
Seagram paintings to the Tate Gallery, citing his deep
affection for the Collection, especially for JMW Turner.
Displayed in keeping with the artist’s wishes as one
coherent environment, the subtlety of the layered surfaces
slowly emerges, revealing their solemn and meditative
character.
The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in
association with Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art
and will travel to Japan in spring 2009.

Curated by: Achim Borchardt-Hume

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Mark Rothko
The Late Series
Die Tate Modern London widmet sich bis zum 1. Februar 2009, den letzten Arbeiten des Amerikaners Mark
Rothko (1903-1970), einer der bedeutesten Repräsentanten des abstrakten Expressionismus und der
Farbfeldmalerei. 50 Arbeiten, auf Leinwand und Papier dokumentieren die letzten Jahre seiner Karriere (1958 bis
1970), welche im Fokus dieser Ausstellung stehen werden.
Mit einer Gruppe von 16 Seagram Murals, bietet die Ausstellung eine einmalige Möglichkeit diese wegweisenden
und beeindruckenden Arbeit zu entdecken. Zum ersten Mal in ihrer Geschichte, werden die neun Tate Seagram
Murals (auch bekannt als der ‘Rothko Raum’) durch eine Sammlung von sieben weiteren Seagram Malereien aus
dem Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art in Japan und der National Gallery of Art in Washington ergänzt. Dies
ist eine besondere Premiere, da das Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art seit Erwerb der Arbeiten 1980, diese
bisher noch nie an eine internationale Ausstellung verliehen hatte.
Die Seagram Murals werden neben weiteren charakteristischen Serien Rothkos, beispielsweise den bekannten
Blackform Malerein (1964), den großformatigen Brown on Grey Arbeiten auf Papier (1969) oder Arbeiten aus
seiner letzten Serie Black on Grey (1969–70) zu sehen sein.
1958 wurden die bekannten Seagram Murals, mit dem Gedanken das exclusive Four Season Restaurant in
Manhatten zu verschönern, in Auftrag gegeben. Das Restaurant lag im neuen Seagram Gebäude, welches von Mies
van der Rohe und Philip Johnson designed wurde. Für die Arbeiten an diesen Werken errichtete Rothko ein Gerüst
in seinem Atelier um eine Nachbildung des Restaurants zu erzeugen. Der ursprüngliche Auftrag umfasste nur 7
Arbeiten, Rothko fertigte letztendlich 30 Leinwände an.
Das Licht und die intensiven Farben seiner frühen Arbeiten entwickelten sich im Laufe seiner Karriere in
Richtung kastanienbraun, dunkelrot und schwarz. Rothko realisierte, dass der nachdenkliche Charakter seiner
letzten Kreationen eine andere Umgebung bedarf, als die für die sie ursprünglich geschaffen wurden. Rothko
betrachtete seine Seagram Malereien als Objekte der Einkehr und des Nachsinnes, welche die komplette
Aufnahmefähigkeit des Betrachters verlangen.
Er verweist auf Arbeiten von Michelangelo in der Laurentian Library in Florenz und deren absichtlich,
bedrückende Stimmung. Rothko erläuterte, „Michelangelo hat genau das Gefühl geschaffen, welches ich suche –
er schafft es, dass sich der
Betrachter so fühlt, als sei er in
einem Raum indem alle Türen Mark Rothko, Untitled, Mural for End Wall 1959, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of The Mark
und Fenster vermauert sind“’. Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1985.38.5 © 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, 265.4 x 288.3
Rothko entschied sich
daraufhin den Auftrag für das
Restaurant zu annullieren.
Kurz vor seinem Tode 1970,
präsentierte Rothko der Tate
Gallery, 9 Seagram Malereien.
Er war den Sammlungen im
Tate sehr zugeneigt,
insbesondere für JMW Turner.
Seine Arbeiten, werden unter
Berücksichtigung seiner
Wünsche, nach einer
einheitlichen Umgebung,
ausgestellt. Die Raffinesse der
geschichteten Oberfläche taucht
ganz langsam auf und
entwickelt ihren ernsten und
meditativen Charakter.
Die Ausstellung wird vom Tate
Modern in Zusammenarbeit mit
dem Kawamura Memorial
Museum of Art organisiert und
wandert im Frühling 2009
weiter nach Japan.

Kurator Achim Borchardt-Hume

15
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Mark Rothko
The Late Series
Alla Tate Modern Londra fino al 1° febbraio 2009, la prima grande
mostra sugli ultimi lavori di Mark Rothko (1903-1970), uno dei
pittori americani più importanti del dopoguerra, aprirà alla Tate
Modern il prossimo autunno. Dedicata agli anni finali della sua
carriera, dal 1958 al 1970, l’esposizione comprende circa 50 opere,
tra quadri e lavori su carta.
In occasione della mostra vengono riuniti 16 murali Seagram di
Rothko: i nove della ‘Rothko room’ della Tate, quelli della
collezione del giapponese Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, e
quelli della National Gallery of Art di Washington. I murali del
museo Kawamura vengono prestati per la prima volta per una
esposizione internazionale da quando si sono aggiunti alla
collezione alla fine degli anni Ottanta.
Accanto ad essi sono presenti altre opere chiave dell’artista, come i
dipinti della serie Blackform (1964), i lavori su carta di grandi
dimensioni della serie Brown on Grey works (1969), e gli
ultimissimi Black on Grey, del 1969–70. Mark Rothko, Untitled (Brown and Gray) 1969,
Commissionati nel 1958 i murali Seagram erano inizialmente National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of the Mark Rothko
concepiti per decorare l’esclusivo ristorante Four Seasons nel Foundation, Inc. 1986.43.283 © 2008 by Kate Rothko Prizel
and Christopher Rothko, 182.5 x 122.2
nuovo edificio Seagram di Manhattan, progettato da Mies van der
Rohe e Philip Johnson. Rothko costruì nel suo studio un modello in
scala reale del locale, per creare una replica precisa dello spazio in
cui avrebbe lavorato. Il progetto si modificò nel tempo,
passando dalle sette tele inizialmente concepite a oltre
trenta dipinti.
Mark Rothko, Untitled 1969, National Gallery of Art, Washington,
Gift of the Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986.43.164 I colori intensi e luminosi dei primi quadri lasciarono il
© 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, 229.6 x 175.9 posto ai marroni, al nero e a tonalità di rosso profondo, e
Rothko comprese velocemente che queste ultime creazioni
avevano bisogno di uno spazio completamente diverso da
quello per il quale erano state originariamente concepite.
L’artista iniziò a pensare ai murali Seagram come dipinti
di cui lo spettatore doveva godere in condizione di assorta
contemplazione. Il suo riferimento divenne la Biblioteca
Laurenziana di Michelangelo con la sua atmosfera
deliberatamente oppressiva, tanto da fargli commentare
che Michelangelo raggiunse esattamente ciò che io sto
cercando, perché ha dato al visitatore la sensazione di
essere intrappolato in una stanza in cui le porte e le
finestre siano state sbarrate’ . Tutto ciò era troppo diverso
dalle intenzioni originarie e Rothko decise di abbandonare
la commissione per il ristorante.
Poco prima della suo morte, avvenuta nel 1970, Rothko
presentò nove dei dipinti Seagram alla Tate Gallery, in
nome del suo intenso legame con la collezione, in
particolare c on JMW Turner. Esposti, secondo il volere
dell’artista in un unico speciale ambiente, le tele fanno
emergere lentamente dalle loro superfici tutto il loro
carattere solenne e meditativo.
La mostra è organizzata in collaborazione c on il
Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, dove si sposterà
nella primavera del 2009.

a cura di Achim Borchardt-Hume