Orange, Red, Yellow

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Orange, Red, Yellow
Orange, Red, Yellow.jpg
Artist Mark Rothko
Year 1961
Medium Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions 236.2 cm × 206.4 cm (93 in × 81 14 in)
Location Private collection

Orange, Red, Yellow is a 1961 Color Field painting by Mark Rothko. It sold at Christie's for $86.882.500 on May 8, 2012.[1] The seller was the estate of David Pincus and the sale price represents a record nominal price for Post-War / contemporary art at public auction and for Rothko works in general.


The work was acquired by Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd. in London from the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc. in New York. Marlborough Fine Art sold the work to David Pincus in 1967.[1] Pincus is regarded as one of the leading American collectors in the second half of the 20th century.[2] The work has not been on the market in the 45 years since Pincus' acquisition.[2][1] It has been exhibited on occasion. From February–March 1964, it was exhibited at the Marlborough New London Gallery in London in a Mark Rothko exhibition. From September–November 1986 it was exhibited by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in its "Philadelphia Collects: Art Since 1940" exhibition. From June–December 1996 it was exhibited by the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania for their "Abstraction to Figuration: Selections of Contemporary Art from the Pincus Collection" exhibition. It was also later on extended loan at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.[1]

2012 auction[edit]

This surpassed the 2007 record price for a Rothko work of $72.8 million set when David Rockefeller sold White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose).[3][4][5] The hammer price was $77.5 million, and the price was $86.8 million including buyer’s premium.[2] It established a new record for post-war/contemporary art[3][5] at a public auction, when ignoring inflation. The highest price paid for a post-war painting in a private sale is believed to be $140 million (~$160 million in May 2012 dollars) for Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948 in November 2006. In constant dollars, the record price for post-war art at a public auction remained with "Triptych, 1976" by Francis Bacon, sold at Sotheby's for $86.3 million in May 2008 (~$92 million in May 2012 dollars).

The price for Rothko's painting was expected to top out near $45 million based on presale estimates.[4][2] When the record-setting 2012 auction price reached $70 million, three bidders remained competitive.[6] The bidding extended for over six and a half minutes,[5] which is " of the longest bidding matches yet witnessed in a contemporary art sale."[2]

Critical commentary[edit]

Souren Melikian of The New York Times described Rothko's Orange, Red, Yellow as one that "...can convincingly be argued to be the most powerful of all his pictures",[2] Kelly Crow of the Wall Street Journal stated that "The painting's trio of orange and yellow rectangles bobbing atop a cherry-red background forms a palette that's as eye-catching as a sunset or a Popsicle.", noting that "Auction specialists say collectors historically pay more for works that are red and gold, as opposed to gray."[4]

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