the mess rothko made


There’s an awesomely bad scene in the BBC movie of The Rothko Conspiracy where my father confronts the other two executors over their conflicts of interest. It takes place in the drawing room of Reis’s townhouse. Stamos says, “Screw you!” and my dad calls him a “son of a bitch!” and then he accuses Reis of being “arbitrary and high-handed.” The dialogue is based on Seldes’s account, which is in turn based on my dad’s testimony. He never doubted that Reis and Stamos had good intentions, apparently: Reis was already a millionaire and certainly didn’t need Marlborough’s $20,000 director’s salary. And Stamos had been negotiating with Marlborough even before Rothko died—a relationship Rothko himself had instigated. What my father was worried about was the appearance of a conflict of interest. Perhaps, as someone who had one foot outside the art world, he took less for granted and could foresee how bad the optics on these deals would be if they were ever contested before a broader public.

more from David Levine at Triple Canopy here.