22 January 2024


Zoom lecture

Mark Rothko at Fondation Vuitton, Paris

Rothko vs Marlborough, the Trial that Shook the Art World of the 1970s

A lecture based on the retrospective exhibition at Fondation Vuitton (until 2 April 2024)

with Chris Boïcos and Jim Peterson

Mark Rothko, Self-Portrait, 1936, Christopher Rothko Collection
Mark Rothko, Self-Portrait, 1936, Christopher Rothko Collection

The Fondation Louis Vuitton presents the first retrospective in France dedicated to Mark Rothko (1903-1970) since the exhibition held at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1999. The retrospective brings together some 115 works from the largest international institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Tate in London and the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., and from international private collections, including the artist's family collection. Displayed chronologically across all of the Fondation’s spaces, the exhibition traces the artist’s entire career: from his earliest figurative paintings to the abstract works that he is most known for today.


Immediately on Rothko’s death in doubtful circumstances in 1970, his financial advisor Bernard Reis and his co-executors under the will made contracts to dispose of the Estate’s holdings to his new art dealer, Frank Lloyd of the Marlborough galleries (London, New York, Rome) – in haste, exclusively, and on unfavorable terms. It was only when Rothko’s young daughter, Kate, came of age two years after her father’s death, that she could press charges against the executors for their faithless actions.


The legal proceedings included a protracted and circus-like trial, with nine sets of antagonistic lawyers, multiple appeals and a cloak-and-dagger “rescue” of the paintings secretly shipped out of the country by Marlborough to Toronto. Jim Peterson was a first-year lawyer when assigned as the junior member of Kate Rothko’s legal team. He was involved in every aspect of the legal proceedings and is one of the few still alive to tell the story of the Rothko Estate based on first-hand personal experience.

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