A new exhibit on Mark Rothko at the Columbia Museum of Art can be traced to the partnership of two museums harmoniously linked since their inceptions.
Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950, the first significant exhibition of Rothkos work in the state, was proposed by the Columbia Museum of Art. The 37 works, including paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints, was chiefly culled from the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
I think this is the largest loan of Rothkos we have made, said Earl Rusty Powell III, the National Gallerys executive director. This is a larger scale project that makes perfect sense and were more than happy to be collaborators and facilitators.
In 2008, through a joint initiative with the National Gallery, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the museum received 50 pieces as part of The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States gift. In April, the museum announced a gift of almost 600 works from the Vogels, who built a collection of more than 4,500 pieces. The Columbia Museum is the second-largest repository of the Vogel collection, trailing the 1,100 pieces held by the National Gallery.
Rothko paintings and works on paper are the second largest grouping of works by an artist that the National Gallery has, trailing only photographs by Alfred Stieglitz. Powell said the National Gallery fields several hundred loan requests per year.
Jackson Pollock, William de Kooning and Mark Rothko were major painters in Abstract Expressionism, the mid-century movement when American art established a point of leadership.
Of those three, Rothko is probably the most popular, said Bradford Collins, chairman of USCs art department.
Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950, an exhibition of Rothkos evolution from a figurative painter to his signature rectangular blocks of color will introduce people to a largely unknown Rothko.
Everybody was under the impression that we knew everything we needed to know about Rothko, said Collins, who edited the 170 page catalogue that augments the show. People were quite happy with the story as it was being told.