Mark Rothko: Kaaba in New York

This exhibition drew its name from a pilgrimage site, the cube-shaped structure at Mecca’s center, and took as its focus the murals Rothko produced in 1958–1959 for the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building, New York. The artist painted about thirty large canvases from which he would have made a final selection and sequence had he not abandoned the commission in 1959. Rothko gave a set of nine of the paintings to the Tate Gallery in 1969, intending them to be displayed together in a particular sequence in a preselected gallery. Mark Rothko: Kaaba in New York included all of the Tate murals, as well as a set of seven murals that had been acquired just prior to the 1990 opening of the Kawamura Museum in Japan. Ten related canvases were lent by the National Gallery of Art and private collections, including the Rothko family. Seven construction-paper studies were shown, as were two long horizontal canvases presumed to date from the Seagram project but later found to be from 1963. Mark Rothko: Kaaba in New York was curated by Thomas Kellein, then director of the Kunsthalle Basel.