Sotheby’s is betting big on the Mark Rothko market, again. The auction house revealed on Wednesday it lined up Blue Over Red (1953), which is expected to sell for between $25 million and $35 million at its marquee New York auction of contemporary art on November 14th.
Blue Over Red last appeared at auction in 2005, when it sold at Christie’s in New York for $5.6 million. According to Sotheby’s press release announcing the lot, the early 1950s was a critical period for Rothko during which he honed what would become his signature style. Eight of the 16 paintings he made in 1953 are now in museum collections, among them the U.S.’s National Gallery of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
David Galperin, Sotheby’s Head of Evening Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, noted this painting’s connection to another major museum, located just down the street from Rothko’s studio at the time, in a statement:
The exuberant palette and atmospheric depth of his Blue Over Red reflects the mastery of this transformative period in Rothko’s career. Rothko would spend hours in front of Matisse’s The Red Studio, which went on permanent display at MoMA in 1949, and it is in paintings like Blue Over Red where we can feel the impact of Matisse’s collapsing of space on Rothko’s explorations of color.
At the auction house’s equivalent sale in the spring, a Rothko from 1960 that had been deaccessioned by SFMOMA sold for $50.1 million. The all-time auction record for a Rothko, set at Christie’s back in 2012 by his Orange, Red, Yellow (1961), is $86.8 million.