Mark Rothko is not officially a Portland native. However, the city’s art museum has decided to honour the painter with a wing that will join its two existing buildings. Construction on the wide glass corridor will begin in 2018 and is expected to open to the public in 2020-2021.

As you may know, Mark Rothko was not born in Portland, Oregon, but he did spend a large part of his life and career there. Born in 1903, in Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, in Latvia), Rothko moved to Portland with his family at the age of 10. He attended Lincoln High School, where he took his first painting lessons, before enrolling at Yale University. He then moved to New York to pursue his artistic career and became an active member of the New York school, thanks to his taste for abstract expressionism, which later evolved into his colour field painting.

He did not return to Portland terribly much after that, but the city has not held that against him. The Portland art museum was the first museum to hold a Rothko retrospective, in 2012, 42 years after his death. The museum’s Rothko pavilion will be an even bigger tribute to the naturalised American. The pavilion was made possible by an $8-million donation from an anonymous patron who wanted to honour the artist. The overall budget is $75 million.

Partnerships with Rothko’s children

Mark Rothko’s children have been working on the project closely. Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel will lend the museum several of their father’s works from their personal collection. The paintings will be sent to the Portland Art Museum individually, as part of a 20-year cycle. “Portland played a formative role in my father’s youth, and we are eager to share these works with the public and give Rothko a more active role in the vibrant cultural life of this city”, said Christopher Rothko in a press release issued by the museum.

Until the Portland space opens, fans of the painter can (re)discover his works alongside those of his contemporaries, including Pollock, Still, de Kooning and Kline, at the Abstract Expressionism retrospective, which has just opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

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