Tate Merchandise: Is Rothko Rolling in His Grave?
Before Mark Rothko offed himself in a hideous way in 1970, he made it clear to gallery curators that a particular collection of his iconic "pictures" as he called them, were to be displayed with specific parameters in mind: he wanted the gallery walls to be painted "off-white with umber and warmed by a little red", hung "as close to the floor as possible, ideally no more than six inches above it", in a room with ordinary daylight, since it was in daylight that they were painted. And don't even entertain the notion of framing any of them.
If you have an appreciation for Rothko and have seen his pictures in person (the only way you really can appreciate him), you will understand why his requests were non-negotiable - standing before one of Rothko's huge, dramatic canvases can be an intense and emotional experience. (Dark sunglasses and a wig might be a good idea if you're not keen on being seen weeping in public.)
So, when I saw Tate Modern's Rothko merchandise collection, produced to coincide with their current exhibition of the artist's work (I'm guessing, as I haven't seen most of this stuff outside of the books, etc. before), my immediate reaction was "How could they? Don't they know better?" Well, they do. Their 'Rothko room' followed his exhibit guidelines to the last detail, after all. Considering how the collection arrived there in the first place, surely he would loathe the replication of his iconic elements to make bags, t-shirts, scarves, mugs and coasters? I feel awkward and guilty having a framed poster on my wall, but if I can't have an original....
Rest in peace, Mark Rothko, I wouldn't be caught dead with one of those bags.