Why was "No 1 (Royal Red and Blue)" able to sell for $75 million?


Mark Rothko's painting "No 1 Royal Red and Blue" just consists of two rectangular shades of red and one rectangular shade of blue. Any ten year old could have painted it. Other than the fact that "No 1 Royal Red and Blue" was painted by the famous artist Mark Rothko, why did the painting "No 1 Royal Red and Blue" sell for $75 million in 2012? What am I missing here?
 
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Mark Rothko's painting "No 1 Royal Red and Blue" just consists of two rectangular shades of red and one rectangular shade of blue. Any ten year old could have painted it. Other than the fact that "No 1 Royal Red and Blue" was painted by the famous artist Mark Rothko, why did the painting "No 1 Royal Red and Blue" sell for $75 million in 2012? What am I missing here?
It sold for that much exactly because someone was willing to pay that much. This is how ALL art is sold. One man's junk is another man's beauty. Have you ever looked at a Jackson Pollock "painting"?
 

lewando

Homework Helper
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Supply and demand are certainly in play. From a supply side, there are only a very small number of pioneers in the color field genre. And there is (was) only one Rothko. And only one No 1 (Royal Red and Blue) in the known universe.

From a demand side, art can be considered to be either an asset or an investment. You could put your 75 M in worse places. Clearly, as phinds indicated, there is a demand at that price level.

Finally, 75 M is not as outlandish as it seems. It is probably a conservative choice (low risk) compared to spending 330 M over 13 years for the Philadelphia Phillies right fielder, Bryce Harper (high risk).

Any ten year old could have painted it.
While it may be true that a 10-year-old can do something like this, copying it after having seen it, not everyone (including 10 year olds) can create a new genre. For fun (and profit), why don't you try it sometime? :wideeyed:
 
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I have never seen this work in person and I probably would not value it that high. But you might be astounded at subtleties involved in the color and also in the amount of care and layers of technique required to get it just right. Personally, I remain amazed by the craft of most representational and abstract artists I have known.
 

Klystron

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Minimalism in general and color field paintings specifically, teach important lessons about the limitations of representational fine art. When I prepare a fresh canvas or panel with several layers of gesso prior to actually painting, I often think, "This surface is the epitome of sublime beauty; perfect, uniform and receptive, without error."

Painting color onto this "perfect surface" risks marring it introducing error. Ignoring for the sake of argument layering techniques, texture and impasto; even the most skilled brilliant painting remains a flat 2-D surface where small applications of color, tint, and shade fool human senses to perceive an image.

With that said the origins of determining the monetary value of fine art likely lies closer to the philosophies of P.T. Barnum and Carlo Ponzi than in principles of geometry. In a sense we are all in on the joke (when pedestrian art commands inordinate monetary value in excess of similar contributions to society).
 

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