Sotheby’s will offer two Rothkos in May sale

Sotheby’s will offer two Rothkos in May sale
'Untitled (Red on Red),' Mark Rothko, 1969. Courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s recently announced that they will be selling a set of paintings by Mark Rothko from the collection of Blema and H. Arnold Steinberg in May. The set of Rothkos will be only two of the paintings sold from the couple’s collection over the course of the year.

The two paintings will come to the auction block in May alongside a number of other colour field paintings, which Sotheby’s is calling ‘the most important collection of colour field paintings ever to appear at auction.’ Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue) and Untitled (Red on Red) were both created by Rothko in 1969, the same year that Rothko passed away. Each is painted on paper and exemplify the kind of ‘dazzling’ colour field works that Rothko has become synonymous with. The works are expected to garner $9 million to $12 million and $7 million to $10 million, respectively.


‘Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue)’, Mark Rothko, 1969. Courtesy Sotheby’s.


In addition to these, Untitled #12 (1981), a seminal painting by Agnes Martin, will be up for grabs. Expected to bring in between $4 million and $6 million, the painting was made in the years that followed Martin’s move to New Mexico in 1968. Though far less vibrant than the works by Rothko that will be auctioned, the painting is made up of the horizontal bands that would become the hallmark of her works.

Starkly contrasting to Martin’s work but having far cleaner edges in comparison to Rothko’s, Kenneth Noland’s East-West (1963) and Blue (Target) (1960) will feature in the sale. Both are expected to bring in between about $1 million and $3 million. Likewise, Newfoundland, a 1975 painting by Helen Frankenthaler received attention in the Sotheby’s press release and is expected to sale for about $1.5 million to $2 million.


‘Untitled (Red on Red),’ Mark Rothko, 1969. Courtesy Sotheby’s.


In 1958, Arnold Steinberg began at Steinberg Inc., his family’s company, where he would work for 30 years. He took particular interest in healthcare and education philanthropic ventures and was often a patron to young Canadian artists. Steinberg and his wife were continuous supporters of McGill University, where Blema served as a professor from 1961 before becoming Professor Emerita at her 2001 retirement. Together, they began the Blema & Arnold Steinberg Family Foundation and also amassed an extensive art collection. By the mid-1980s, more than 1,500 artworks by contemporary artists could be found hung in Steinberg’s offices in Quebec and Ontario.

‘The Steinberg Collection represents one of the great private curatorial achievements of the past half century, and it is a great privilege to present Blema and Arnold Steinberg’s exceptional vision to the market this year,’ said Michael Macaulay, senior international specialist of Sotheby’s contemporary art department. ‘Informed by rare intelligence, dedicated research and a meticulous eye, the collection represents a pioneering spirit that perceived beyond existing boundaries and forged its own version of art history.’