Tate in London is loaning nine Seagram Murals by Mark Rothko—the gallery’s entire Rothko Room—to a major retrospective in France dedicated to the late Abstract Expressionist artist at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris (18 October-2 April 2024).
The murals were commissioned in 1958 for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York’s Seagram building. But Rothko pulled out of the project, saying the restaurant was “a place where the richest bastards of New York will come to feed and show off”.
The room where the Rothkos used to be at Tate Modern has hosted a Cy Twombly display in recent years and is about to reopen as a display of Joan Mitchell works on loan from the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
“The set of nine works presented here [in Paris]—the Rothko Room at the Tate, and in the artist’s intended configuration—was originally commissioned for a dining room designed by Philip Johnson in a building by Mies van der Rohe,” says the co-curator of the exhibition, Suzanne Pagé, in a statement. Pagé is also the artistic director of the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
The vast Paris show will be co-curated by Christopher Rothko, the artist’s son, and include more than 115 works drawn from collections such as the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, and the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.
A gallery statement says that the exhibition will be “displayed chronologically across all of the Fondation’s spaces; the exhibition traces the artist’s entire career from his earliest figurative paintings to the abstract works that he is most known for today”.
The artist’s only self-portrait dating from 1936, drawn from the collection of Christopher Rothko, will open the show. Paintings made in the 1930s depicting urban landscapes such as the New York subway subsequently follow.
Later works from the 1940s reflect Rothko’s progression towards abstraction via his Multiform works whereby “Rothko applied thin washes of paint to canvas to create irregular forms that ebb and flow across the picture plane”, according to the website for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Pagé adds: “At the heart of the exhibition are abstract works from the so-called ‘Classic’ period, from the late 1940s onwards, in which a unique colourist asserts himself in the radiant, mysterious brilliance of colour raised to incandescence. This, his best- known period, will be particularly well represented here by some seventy works, including two exceptional ensembles, one from the Phillips Collection in Washington DC., and the Seagram Murals from Tate.”
Works by Alberto Giacometti will go on display alongside Rothko’s later pieces, bringing to life an unrealised commission by Unesco planned for its building in Paris in 1967. Unesco proposed showing Giacometti’s work The Walking Man alongside Rothko’s Black and Grey series (1969-70). “In resonance with Giacometti’s sculptures, they bestow a density and solemnity as well as a tension in which the poignancy sought by Rothko seems to reappear in a new form,” Pagé writes.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton is known for its blockbuster shows filled with exceptional loans such as the current exhibition Basquiat x Warhol: Painting Four Hands (until 28 August).