Mark Rothko, No 14, 1960

The Mark Rothko retrospective at Paris’ Fondation Louis Vuitton is only the second in France since 1999. 

Said Bernard Arnaud, President of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Rothko is one of my favorite artists, yet he is still too poorly known and acknowledged in France and Europe. I therefore wanted the Fondation to redress this injustice.”

Curated by the artist’s son Christopher Rothko and Suzanne Pagé of the FLV, 115 works are on loan from private collections and international institutions including the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, MoMA, Tate Modern, London, Yale, Stanford, and the artist’s family. 

No public museum could afford to host an exhibition of this scale. The vastness of the museum’s space and the lavishness of its curation offer the visitor a unique, immersive perspective for contemplation of Rothko’s oeuvre.

Spread over four floors, Rothko’s entire career is retraced chronologically, from his earliest figurative paintings of the 1930s, to the abstract works for which he is best known.

The exhibition begins with his little-known figurative work with scenes from the artist’s life and urban landscapes such as scenes of the New York subway. 

In Gallery 2, Multiforms illustrate Rothko’s important shift away from figurative art to abstract expressionism from 1946. 

His evolution to his fully abstract works of the 1950s, with his signature overlapping rectangles in yellow, red, ochre, orange, blue and white, creating the vibration so typical of his work. The atmospheric brushwork gives the canvas a mysterious, almost magical quality. 

Rothko asserted, “I’m not interested in color. It’s light I’m after.”

Over the course of 1964, the artist experimented with the capacity of dark, almost monochrome panels to generate their own light. His Blackforms demand that the eye adjusts to them before they fully reveal themselves. These works coincide with the beginning of Rothko’s reflections for the chapel in Houston, to which he devoted himself until the end of the 1960s. 

“I would like to say to those who think of my pictures as serene that I have imprisoned the most utter violence in every inch of their surface.”

These works are displayed alongside Alberto Giacometti’s large-scale sculptural figures, creating an environment that is close to what Rothko had in mind for a UNESCO commission that was never realized.

Rothko’s incessant questioning, his wordless dialogue with the viewer, and his refusal to be labelled a “colourist” allow a new interpretation of his work in this breathtaking exhibition.


By : Jean Grogan

From 18 October 2023 to 2 April 2024 


Opening hours : 

Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 11 a.m – 8 p.m 

Friday: 11 a.m – 9 p.m (except on the first Friday of every month, closed at 11 p.m) 

Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m – 8 p.m 


8, avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Bois de Boulogne, 75116 Paris. 

 Mark Rothko, Self Portrait, 1936

 Mark Rothko, The Ochre ( Ochre, Red on Red), 1954

Left to right: Mark RothkoUntilted, 1969Untilted,1969Untilted,1969Sculptures,:

Alberto Giacometti L’Homme qui marche I, 1960Grande Femme III, 1960