One of the final paintings the artist made in 1970, the year of his suicide, this work was acquired by a private collector from the $158 million sale of Bunny Mellon’s estate in 2014. Mellon had acquired the work in 1971. Offered with an estimate upon the request, the whisper number for the painting is in the region of $40 million, which comports with private sales of Rothko’s work and comparable artists.
Emily Kaplan, co-head of Christie’s 20th century evening sales, said in a statement, “Rothko’s penultimate painting, Untitled, offers a parting vision of glowing, incandescent color; a luminous, resonant hymn that eloquently encapsulates the spirit of his life’s work.”
In his 1998 catalogue raisonné, art historian David Anfam said this about Untitled: “Shedding the mournful monochromatic hues that had occupied him for much of 1969, Rothko plunges one last time into the jewelled, intoxicating spectrum that had guided his practice for over two decades. His deep blue tone shifts and mutates as it catches the light, glimmering like a portal to the beyond.”
If Christie’s is able to sell the work for their asking price, it will not represent much of a gain for the collector, who paid $39.9 million at Sotheby’s in 2014.