The gallery has owned the paintings by Mark Rothko since the 1980s and displayed them from October 2003 to August 2007. Now, with Arena Stage preparing to mount the award-winning play “Red” next month, the gallery has brought them out again. The wine-dark canvases are on view in the East Building, Concourse Gallery.
Rothko, the 20th century abstract artist, was commissioned in 1958 to create a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building in Manhattan. All the parties wanted something modern and elegant to compliment the skyscraper designed by the revered Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe.
After completely some 30 paintings, Rothko withdrew from the project, unsure the restaurant was the right place for his art. In 1985 and 1986 the gallery received major works from his estate, including several paintings from the Seagram Mural Project.
Of course, when Washingtonians need a Rothko fix, they can always go to the Phillips Collection, which has a room dedicated to the artist.