by Ted Welch
A Russian makes a Rothko mildly interesting by writing on it:
But it's just another bit of Art apparently, another attempt to be the most radical, art as a negation of art, a gesture to advance "Yellowism":
"The main difference between yellowism and art is that in art you have got freedom of interpretation. In yellowism you don't have freedom of interpretation, everything is about yellowism, that's it"
Those tempted to worship at the alter of Art, should note that this work was part of a set that was intended as chic interior decoration for a NY restaurant for the rich, the Four Seasons in the Seagram building:
"Rothko completed forty paintings, three full series in dark red and brown. He altered his horizontal format to vertical to complement the restaurant's vertical features: columns, walls, doors and windows."
Naturally, Rothko, as an old-time anti-bourgeois bohemian wasn't exactly comfortable with this, though he could do with the money. So how were wealthy customers supposed to react to these works ? Admire what is now seen, e.g; according to the BBC arts correspondent, as their "sombre, thoughtful" nature ? That wasn't at all what Rothko was trying for:
"... he disclosed to John Fischer, publisher of Harper's, that his true intention for the Seagram murals was to paint 'something that will ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room. If the restaurant would refuse to put up my murals, that would be the ultimate compliment. But they won't. People can stand anything these days.' "
Indeed they can, if some critic insists that they are Art, a major gallery agrees and if they're expensive. Significantly the Guardian's report begins by noting their financial value and location (nothing about the proposed location and Rothko's feelings about its customers):
"A man has defaced a multimillion-pound Mark Rothko mural hanging in theTate Modern gallery ..."
In the end Rothko so hated the restaurant that he refused to go through with the project (he was now selling anyway); he seems to have lost faith in the ability of his work to disturb the digestion of the rich:
"Once back in New York, Rothko and wife Mell visited the near-completed Four Seasons restaurant. Upset with the restaurant's dining atmosphere, which he considered pretentious and inappropriate for the display of his works, Rothko immediately refused to continue the project, and returned the commission cash advance to the Seagram and Sons Company." Ibid
If he knew how much money the rich are now making from his works I think he'd be cheering the Russian on - though wishing he had a really radical message to scrawl, like "Ruin the appetite of the rich - start the revolution".