On Sunday, a visitor to the Tate Modern in London walked up to Rothko’s “Black on Maroon” and scribbled the words “a potential piece of yellowism” in black marker on the lower right corner. Later, Vladimir Umanets, leader of the Yellowist movement, claimed responsibility for defacing the painting, telling the BBC, “I am not a vandal. I haven’t done criminal damage.’’ The good news is that the museum staff believe they will be able to restore the painting.
That Levin and Hargreaves chose to recreate the paintings using rice isn’t a coincidence; the original paintings had a strong connection to food. The Seagram Murals were originally commissioned by Joseph Seagram and Sons for the Four Seasons luxury restaurant in New York. Rothko, offended by the restaurant’s well-to-do clientele, claimed that he tried to produce paintings that would “ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room.” But in the end it didn’t matter, because Rothko later refused to deliver the paintings and instead gave nine of them to the Tate.
Photos © Henry Hargreaves