Crystal Bridges Acquires Mark Rothko Painting
The huge rectangles of color in the works of Mark Rothko tend to evoke powerful responses from the public, ranging anywhere from awe to reserved thoughts of, “Well, I could have done that.” Rothko has, according to Guggenheim.org, “a painting style with mythological content, simple flat shapes, and imagery inspired by so-called primitive art.”
With a recent acquisition Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., has added a Rothko to its already vast repertoire of artists. The piece, “No. 210/No. 211 (Orange),” has only been exhibited to the public twice, according to a statement released by Crystal Bridges.
UA Art Professor Cindy Wiseman recently viewed the piece and said Rothko’s work is a different experience for each person.
“Rothko’s work is subjective and leaves room for personal interpretation — he doesn’t give you all the answers,” Wiseman said. “There is room for your imagination to explore.”
Rothko’s work is identified with the Abstract-Expressionist school of art, which represents the period during which American artists first influenced the international art scene. Wiseman said that while each Abstract-Expressionist artist used particular techniques, a common thread exists in all of their works.
“Making art wasn’t about trying to show a particular object or scene to the viewer,” Wiseman said. “Instead, they offered an emotional, spiritual or reactive use of light, color and medium.”
Wiseman said that the enormous painting does not stop at the canvas, but spills out into the space around it.
“The painting is transcendent, calmly commanding the gallery walls,” Wiseman said. “It isn’t often that a person is allowed a public meditative place where warm veils of color hover, balanced in light embraced by blushed hues of darkened purple borders.
“When examined closely, the painter’s subtle mark is clearly there, placing the pigment of earthly orange in an uncommon territory for the visual senses.”
“210/No. 211 (Orange)” debuts as part of the new exhibit, “See the Light: The Luminist Tradition in American Art.” According to Crystal Bridges’ website, the exhibit examines the “concept of light as a metaphor for transcendent experience” throughout movements in American art. The exhibit will run until Jan. 28, 2013, at which time the Rothko work will join the museum’s permanent collection.
Crystal Bridges, founded by Alice Walton, purchased the painting from a private collection for an undisclosed amount of money, though the Arkansas Times art blog Eye Candy suggested that Walton paid around $25 million for the work. Wiseman said Rothko’s work rarely comes up for auction, with most of his work already hanging in museums around the world.
Because it comes from a private collection, the Rothko acquisition has been less controversial than other larger purchases, like the firestorm-inducing “Kindred Spirits” by Asher B. Durand or the Georgia O’Keefe collection from Fisk University in Nashville. In both cases, people were upset that major works would be moving away from traditional culture centers to Bentonville, Ark.
The Rothko will only add to the draw of Northwest Arkansas for art lovers. Art patrons come to the area with cash to spend on hotel rooms and restaurant meals. The Bentonville Square has experienced a renaissance thanks to the museum, with a new hotel currently in construction. The tourism boom has spilled over into the rest of Northwest Arkansas. The area pops up on a new magazine destination list almost every week.
The acquisition further cements Crystal Bridge’s position as one of the preeminent American art museums in the world, all in a town of 40,000 people. The orange blocks of color in “210/No. 211 (Orange)” stand for more than they actually are, just as Crystal Bridges is more than just a museum. The outside world no longer just sees lakes and mountains in Northwest Arkansas; it sees a creative Mecca.
“The collection at Crystal Bridges Museum exemplifies the changing and evolving tradition of American art,” Wiseman said. “The museum is continually expanding their art collection to include a broad expanse of American art that offers a world-class art-viewing experience in our area.”