Rothko Watercolors @pacegallery

(Recharging my Creative Batteries) 

This blog post reviews the Mark Rothko art show at the Pace gallery in New York featuring his watercolor paintings. In addition, I give you a humorous view into a day trip into New York City.

mark rothko watercolors pace gallery
A view of the gallery when you step off the Art Deco elevator. There is a quote on the wall.
artist Miriam Schulman
Selfie– my daughter says I looked like a tourist. I didn’t think so.

Yesterday, after I polished off my blog post I decided I had to go into the city. Briefly I considered not going but I really couldn’t find an excuse compelling enough to stay behind and do my artwork or housework. It was a beautiful day in New York so I threw my book and art journal into a canvas bag and away I went. I knew that the Rothko watercolor exhibit closes this week and this would be my only chance to see it. Anyhow, since I am a watercolor artist, seeing art shows is part of my job. {see all my watercolor paintings for sale}

Walking in the City

Lucky me, the train station is less than a mile away and an easy flat walk. Less than an hour after I left my house, I was already on the streets of New York waiting for a cab. After a few impatient minutes I decided to walk to the gallery as well. Grand Central is at 42 and the Pace gallery at 57th is also less than a mile. I’m glad I walked because the walk back and forth to the gallery was definitely the highlight of my trip into the city.

Park Avenue- more corporate…

Trend spotting on Madison Avenue

The walk up Madison Avenue took me past great shops and even better dressed people on the streets. I took note of several fashion trends and took mental pictures. I wish I had an inconspicuous camera hidden in a pen so I could take pictures of all the styles I saw. The three trends I noticed were lace dresses or lace elements on clothes, tribal prints and rompers, both long and short. I even saw one woman wearing all three trends in one outfit (tribal print, lace bodice, romper) Oh yes, and peplums… lots of peplums on dresses and on shirts… …but I digress. 


I also saw a few homeless people sitting on the sidewalks. The first woman had a small toddler in her arms and was talking to herself.. or perhaps singing to the baby. I gave her a dollar and later regretted not giving her all the money I had saved on the cab fare.

mark rothko watercolors @pacegallery
The gallery looks well lit– when I was there it was dim.. 
perhaps I should have asked them to turn on the lights!

The Gallery Show

When I finally reached the Pace gallery it was a bit of a let down. Not that the art isn’t good– but just the sites on the street were more entertaining. I had wanted to take some photos inside the gallery but the security guard seemed to know what I was up to and was stalking me around the room. The other problem I had in the gallery is that it was very poorly lit which meant that the few photos I snapped did not come out. The photos online are much brighter making me regret not asking the preoccupied gallery assistants to turn on the lights..

mark rothko watercolors @pacegallery
Only the watercolor on the bottom left is for sale… 
I think it was $200,000…. a bargain.

A Primer on New York Galleries

New York galleries are not like museums even when they curate a show. There are no descriptive plaque to read, or audio guides. Each painting has a barely visible number at the bottom right corner.  If you want to know the title of the painting you have to grab a plastic binder from the front desk that lists the numbers with titles. Due to the dim lighting I had trouble reading the numbers. No, it is not my eyes getting older. However, galleries are free.

Painting Prices

Usually the titles also have a price and then if it is sold a red dot next to it… and there would be a corresponding red dot on the wall. Very few paintings in this show were for sale.. they were marked NFS. There were a few paintings for sale, the most expensive was $1.5 million and I believe the least expensive was $200,000. I found out later there was a catalog book you could buy of the show for $45. You can buy this online… not a cheap book, but I spend almost that amount on cabs and train fare whenever I go into the city, so there you go. I did not buy the book this time…

Rothko’s Watercolors

Part of the reason I felt unconnected with the art is that Rothko did not title his art. He gave a number to each one. Also, I felt that although all the work in the gallery was in watercolor and nonrepresentational it seemed as if Rothko had not found his voice yet and was experimenting with many styles. In one artwork I could see a Miro influence, Milton Avery in another. Of course, like I said, the lights were really low so it was hard to read the catalog or see the art. I had assumed the gallery did this to protect the light sensitive artworks.

mark rothko watercolors @pacegallery
Favorite watercolor in the show– very small actually.

Why Galleries host art shows


If you are wondering why a gallery like Pace would host a free art show like this where most of the paintings are not for sale you can see what this does for the art. First, they get collectors to lend their art. By displaying art in a prestigious gallery or museum it raises the reputation of the artist and hence the value of the other artworks that are for sale. So collectors like to lend their art to increase their investment and the gallery does it to increase the investment of their holdings. Of course, they may sell some art during the show, but they do it so that six months from now or a year from now the art will have more value and fetch a higher price. Whenever I go to these shows I like to fantasize which piece I would buy and flirt with the idea of mortgaging my house and my life’s possessions to own a piece of art. My favorite artwork in the show was not for sale.


The Pace gallery is on 32 East 57th Street and closes on  June 21, 2014. The gallery opens its doors at 10am and is free to the public.

17 thoughts on “Rothko Watercolors @pacegallery”

  1. For the first one, I like the Before. For the second, I like the After.
    I find the butterflies in the second picture captivating but the bright red is what does it for me in the first.

    Gorgeous work!

  2. I like the after pictures. I agree with you that life is layers of experience and you become a richer person for those layers. While the colours are more muted in the after pictures there is a beauty in tempered colour. It reminds me of the vibrant colours of brash youth versus the faded beauty of people as they get older. Really, there is more to look at and learn from the faces of the old than the perfect beauty of the young. I kind of feel like this about your paitings. I'm also interested in the process you used to choose the colours of the butterfly. It's great to see behind the finished canvas to the decision and artistic processes that are in play.

  3. That is a beautiful piece of work. I recently painted my first canvas and was surprised how much I actually enjoyed it. Can't wait to paint a second one!

  4. I think there's no mistakes in creating art because they are part of the work that reflects the artist. 🙂 I love that you chose blue as the butterfly colors as it's well accentuated against the red flowers.

  5. looks amazing and you can see how you have matured as an artist while the first paints are beautiful, I think myself liking more the after


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I’m Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration.

I inspire art-lovers to reconnect with their creativity and profit from their art. Whether you paint simply for the joy of it or you’re serious about selling your work, and you’re ready to stop putting yourself on the back burner...You're in the right place. I've done it and I can inspire YOU how to do it too.

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