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Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1960. Photo: Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1960. Photo: Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

SFMoMA to Auction Rothko Painting to Diversify Its Collection

Sotheby’s New York announced today that its Contemporary Art Evening auction this May will feature an important work from the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA): Mark Rothko’s Untitled, 1960. The institution decided to sell the piece, which is one of only nineteen works completed by the artist that year, as part of an effort to diversify its holdings. The auction house estimates that the canvas will bring in between $35 million and $50 million.

SFMoMA’s director Neal Benezra said that the institution will use the proceeds from the sale to “address art historical gaps” in its holdings and to enhance its collection of contemporary art. “With a spirit of experimentation, diversity of thought, and openness to new ways of telling stories, we are rethinking our exhibitions, collections, and education programs to enhance accessibility and expand our commitment to a global perspective, while sustaining our dedication to Bay Area and California art.”

Untitled, 1960, will travel to London, Taipei, and Hong Kong, before returning to New York for exhibition and auction this May. Saara Pritchard, senior vice president and senior specialist in the contemporary art department at Sotheby’s in New York, said that the sale of the work, which “embodies the height of Rothko’s artistic practice,” will be “a major market moment.”

The museum conducted a collection review before opting to deaccession the piece and is working within the guidelines of the Association of Art Museum Directors. Gary Garrels, SFMoMA’s senior curator of painting and sculpture, said that the sale will allow the museum to review proposals for new acquisitions as early as May 29.

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