Skip to Content
Admission is always free Directions
Tower 1: Mark Rothko
East Building, Tower - Gallery 615A

Opened in September 2016, the East Building’s Tower 1 gallery features a rotating series of paintings by Mark Rothko.

In 1986 the Mark Rothko Foundation donated roughly 200 paintings and 900 works on paper by Mark Rothko to the National Gallery of Art, making the institution the largest public collection of the artist’s work. In 2016 the East Building reopened with a Tower Gallery space dedicated to this important collection. The luminous room showcases a rotating selection of Mark Rothko’s work, including paintings from the height of his career in the early 1950s.

In 1949 Rothko hit upon a deceptively simple, abstract format: soft-edged, horizontal rectangles on a monochrome, usually vertical background. Making his own paints, Rothko applied colors in thin washes. The large size of his canvases was meant to draw the viewer in, never to be “grandiose” (as he wrote) but always “intimate and human.” He rejected interpretations of his work that focused on formal issues of color, light, and space, insisting that he was “expressing basic human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom.”

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Passes: Admission is always free and passes are not required