Watch the Tate Modern Restore Mark Rothko’s Vandalized Painting, Black on Maroon: 18 Months of Work Condensed Into 17 Minutes


Black on Maroon (1958)

“In 2012, a Russian artist calling himself Vladimir Umanets wrote his name and the words ‘A potential piece of yellowism’ in black marker on the corner of Mark Rothko’s 1958 canvas Black on Maroon. The damage to the painting, housed at the Tate Modern since 1970, was substantial, and it turned out to be one of the museum’s most challenging restoration projects, as well as one of its most successful — ‘far more successful than any of us dared hope,’ said Tate director Nicholas Serota. The painting went back on display in May of 2014. Due to Rothko’s layered technique, the painting’s ‘surface is really delicate and it turned out that most of the solvent systems that could dissolve and remove the ink could potentially damage the painting as well.’ Patricia Smithen, the Tate’s head of conservation, told The Guardian. The video above from the museum shows the art and science that went into restoring the famous work, an eighteen-month-long process that involved some reverse engineering from a canvas donated by the Rothko family. Black on Maroon seemed like an odd choice for a protest, as a blogger at Art History Abroad wrote the following day: ‘Why Rothko?. His paintings [are] often criticised by those who don’t favour their abstraction, but rarely deemed politically or socially motivated to a point that they might provoke vandalism.’ The presence of Black on Maroon and other Seagram Murals at the Tate, in fact, mark an act of protest by Rothko himself (who committed suicide the day the paintings arrived at the London museum). The Seagram Murals were originally commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram building in New York, designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Seven paintings were commissioned, Rothko made 30. He reportedly told Harper’s editor John Fischer he wanted to create ‘something that will ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room.’ When he finally got the chance to dine at the completed restaurant, he was disgusted, withdrew his work, and returned his commission, writing, “it seemed clear to me at once that the two were not for each other.” He spent the next decade thinking about how and where to display the paintings. Umanets did not seem to care much about the history of the murals in the Tate’s Rothko Room and claims his choice had no meaning. …”
Open Culture (Video)
Mark Rothko Room at Tate Modern
W – Black on Maroon

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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1 Response to Watch the Tate Modern Restore Mark Rothko’s Vandalized Painting, Black on Maroon: 18 Months of Work Condensed Into 17 Minutes

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