2 Mark Rothko Paintings Highlight New York Auction
1955 painting by Mark Rothko, "Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange)," from the estate of Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a noted horticulturist, philanthropist and Listerine fortune heir.
NEW YORK (AP) — Two Mark Rothko paintings owned by Listerine fortune heir Rachel "Bunny" Mellon fetched more than $76 million at a Sotheby's auction of post-war and contemporary art on Monday.
"Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange)," from 1955, sold for $36.5 million, just over its pre-sale estimate high of $30 million. "Untitled," created 15 years later, brought in just under $40 million, almost double its top pre-sale estimate, Sotheby's said.
Other items from the Mellon collection, including jewelry and furnishings, will be offered in a series of sales Nov. 20-23. The total could realize more than $100 million. Proceeds will benefit The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, which supports The Oak Spring Garden Library in Upperville, Virginia. The library houses Mellon's collection of rare books, manuscripts and works of art related to landscape design, horticulture and natural history.
Mellon, a noted horticulturist and widow of philanthropist Paul Mellon, died in March at age 103 at her Virginia estate. Mellon's grandfather Jordan W. Lambert created Listerine, and her father, Gerald Lambert, built a company that made everything from Dentyne to Schick razors. Paul Mellon had his own fortune, inherited from his Pittsburgh industrialist father and built on holdings in banking, coal, railroads, steel and aluminum.
Bunny Mellon was a self-taught botanist and close friend of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In 1961 she redesigned the White House Rose Garden, and later she created another White House garden that was named for Kennedy after her death.
The Mellons donated hundreds of important artworks to museums, including the National Gallery of Art, founded in 1937 by Paul Mellon's father, Andrew Mellon. On Tuesday, a third Rothko painting will go under the gavel at Sotheby's. "No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)," bought by art benefactors Pierre and Sao Schlumberger from Rothko's estate, could bring more than $50 million.
The painting was first exhibited in the seminal exhibition "15 Americans" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1952, a year after it was created. It has not been exhibited since a traveling retrospective of Rothko's work in 1971-72.
The current Rothko auction record is $86.8 million for "Orange, Red, Yellow." Among other highlights at the Tuesday sale is Andy Warhol's 1974 "A group of Four Portraits of Sao Schlumberger." Sotheby's and Christie's also are cashing in on the Jeff Koons mania sweeping the globe.
Sotheby's Tuesday sale features his "Moon (Yellow)," one of five moon sculptures he created in different colors and the first of them to appear at auction. A pink version was displayed at a recent Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
On Wednesday, Christie's is offering Koons' massive stainless steel "Balloon Monkey (Orange)." Koons became the most expensive living artist last year, when his "Balloon Dog (Orange)" was auctioned for $58.4 million.
The week of high-end sales concludes with another blockbuster offering from Christie's on Wednesday: two Andy Warhol portraits never before seen at auction, one of Elvis Presley and the other of Marlon Brando. "Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" and "Four Marlons" were acquired by German casino company WestSpiel in the 1970s.