Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Untitled #17, oil on canvas, 93 x 76 in. (236.2 x 193 cm.) Painted 1961. $18,000,000 – 22,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announces the auction of a previously undocumented masterpiece by the great Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko (1903-1970), to be offered as the highlight of the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Christie’s New York on May 11, 2011. The boldly colored 1961 painting Untitled #17 (oil on canvas, 93 x 76 in.) comes to auction with an estimate of $18,000,000-22,000,000.

The present owner of Untitled #17 acquired the work directly from Rothko, and the work has remained in private hands since 1965. It is one of only ten paintings that have come to light since the Rothko catalogue raisonné was published in 1998. The discovered work will be included in the supplement to the catalogue raisonné.

David Anfam, author of the catalogue raisonné, Mark Rothko The Works on Canvas, has written a text on the painting and has noted:“Recently come to light after an extended period in private hands, Untitled No. 17 fits squarely among the 18 hitherto documented oils on canvas from 1961. Large, classic canvases that managed to elude my catalogue raisonné are uncommon, and most welcome. At its publication in 1998, I compared the catalogue raisonné project to a sort of homecoming, for a family of works that had been scattered around the world by time and circumstance into public, private and even forgotten places. Absent from my pages then, the rediscovery of Untitled No.17 adds another indelible presence to the great Rothko canon.”

One of the pre-eminent artists identified with Abstract Expressionism, Rothko evolved his classic style at the end of the 1940s, creating large-scale canvases in which form and color are one. Although others have described these works in purely formal terms, Rothko spoke of them as “intimate and intense,” and said they were meant to be experienced at close quarters, so that the viewer gets the feeling of being “within the picture,” participating in its human “poignancy.” Untitled #17 was painted at the end of the decade of Rothko’s classic work, when he received the major commissions for the Four Seasons Restaurant, the Holyoke Center at Harvard and the de Menil Chapel in Houston that altered the direction of his art.

Jonathan Laib, Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Specialist, Vice President, Head of Morning Sale Comments: “It is rare in one’s career for my team to handle such an extraordinary discovery, especially when the market for Rothko and classic Abstract Expressionist master works is at such an all-time high. The demand for Rothko is truly international, with strong interest from Asia, the Middle East and Russia. This picture will be the talk of the season.”

Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Christie’s New York
May 11, 2011 at 7 pm