Tate 'turned down Rothko paintings worth $1 billion'

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Trustees at the Tate Gallery turned down 21 paintings by the American artist Mark Rothko in the late 1960s which could now be worth as much as $1 billion (£630 million), according to notes written by its late director.

Rothko was in talks with Sir Norman Reid to bequeath 30 works to the London gallery, but in the end Tate took only nine, according to The Art Newspaper. Now it has emerged that the abstract artist, who painted vast canvases of reds, mauves, blacks and greys, "touched on the possibility of giving all the paintings to the Tate".

Sir Norman struck up a strong relationship with Rothko in the 1960s, spending hours talking about art in his New York studio.

Such was Rothko's trust in the man and the institution that he decided to give a large number of paintings to the gallery...

But Tate's trustees twice blocked the larger gift of 30 paintings, according to memoirs of Sir Norman that have been unearthed by The Art Newspaper. The sticking point appeared to be Rothko's desire that all 30 were hung permanently.

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