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Sotheby’s to Offer the Most Important Collection of Color Field Paintings Ever to Appear at Auction

NEW YORK, 8 March 2019 – Sotheby’s is honored to announce that we will offer works from the esteemed private collection of Blema and H. Arnold Steinberg across a series of sales through 2019. Passionately assembled across decades by the Canadian collectors from the mid-1960s through to 2014, the 100+ works offered this year together are estimated to achieve in excess of $40 million.

While representing the vast sphere of artistic innovation that took place across the United States and Canada in the post-war decades, from Abstract Expressionism to the Hard Edge and Minimalist movements, the heart of the Steinberg Collection lies in its extraordinary assemblage of Color Field painting - the finest ever to appear at auction. In addition to important works by Agnes Martin, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland and Adolph Gottlieb, the collection is led by two utterly captivating and transcendent paintings by Mark Rothko, both executed in the final year of his life: Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue) (pictured right, estimate $9/12 million) and Untitled (Red on Red) (estimate $7/10 million).

Michael Macaulay, Senior International Specialist of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department in New York, commented: “The Steinberg Collection represents one of the great private curatorial achievements of the past half century, and it is a great privilege to present Blema and Arnold Steinberg’s exceptional vision to the market this year. Informed by rare intelligence, dedicated research and a meticulous eye, the collection represents a pioneering spirit that perceived beyond existing boundaries and forged its own version of art history.”

Highlights from the collection will travel to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and Chicago this spring, before returning to New York for a dedicated exhibition in Sotheby’s new galleries in New York.


Canadian businessman Arnold Steinberg joined his family’s business Steinberg Inc. in 1958. He held various executive positions including Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer over the course of three decades. In addition to his very considerable business and philanthropic achievements, particularly in the fields of healthcare and education, he was a major patron of young Canadian artists: by the mid-1980s over 1,500 works by Contemporary artists hung in Steinberg offices in Québec and Ontario.

Blema Steinberg joined McGill University’s Department of Political Science in 1961, eventually earning the title of full professor and later Professor Emerita upon her retirement in 2001. Arnold was a longtime supporter of McGill as well and served as Chancellor beginning in 2009. In addition to their passion for collecting, the Steinbergs were devoted philanthropists, including their work through the Blema & Arnold Steinberg Family Foundation.


New York, May 2019

The Steinberg Collection is led by two transcendent paintings on paper executed by Mark Rothko in 1969 - the final year of his life. Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue) (estimate $9/12 million) and Untitled (Red on Red) (pictured left, estimate $7/10 million) are both dazzling embodiments of the artist’s legendary Color Field compositions, which are distinguished as rare, exquisitely vibrant examples from a period of the artist’s fabled career that was largely characterized by a predominantly somber palette. Both works exemplify Rothko’s work in a medium that bore an increasingly profound significance in the twilight years of his oeuvre when, tirelessly seeking to broaden the horizons of his prodigious practice, he focused his energies upon exploring the absolute limits of painting on paper.

A mesmerizing mirage of chromatic complexity, Untitled #12 from 1981 ranks among Agnes Martin’s most profound realizations of the sublime (estimate $4/6 million). The work hails from a seminal period of Martin’s prodigious artistic production: its quality of chromatic subtlety and variance, as well as its paint application captured in the full scale 72-by-72 inch format renders Untitled #12 an especially unique example among the set of paintings that emanated from Martin’s move to New Mexico in 1968, most of which are populated by greys, whites and black.

Two works in the collection by Kenneth Noland include his East-West from 1963 (pictured right, estimate $1/1.5 million). The painting belongs to Noland’s body of Chevron paintings, a visually concise series of works that the artist produced for only two years. Hailing from the latter portion of this period, the present work exhibits a sense of proportion and chromatic sophistication that is exemplary of Noland at his most developed and in control. The collection also offers Noland’s Blue (Target) from 1960, an important example of the artist’s signature target pictures (estimate $2/3 million).

An awe-inspiring panoramic work expanding over nine feet across, Helen Frankenthaler’s Newfoundland from 1975 is an unattested masterpiece from the artist’s highly acclaimed period of production in the mid-1970s, and one of two works by the artist that highlight the Steinberg Collection (estimate $1.5/2 million). Frankenthaler’s signature form of abstraction was achieved by diluting her paint, allowing it to completely soak into the fibers of the raw unprimed canvas. The thinned-paint literally fused with its support, drawing focus to the canvas as an integral part of the art itself - and changing the course of art history in the process, influencing generations of artists including Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis and Jules Olitski – all of whom are represented in the Collection.


New York, May 2019

  • 09.03.2019
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  • FEATURING:  Two Transcendent Works on Paper by Mark Rothko:  Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue)  Estimate $9/12 Million  &  Untitled (Red on Red)  Estimate $7/10 Million
    FEATURING: Two Transcendent Works on Paper by Mark Rothko: Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue) Estimate $9/12 Million & Untitled (Red on Red) Estimate $7/10 Million
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • 10069 Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red on Red)
    10069 Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red on Red)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • 10069 Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue)
    10069 Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red and Burgundy Over Blue)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • 10070 Kenneth Noland, East-West
    10070 Kenneth Noland, East-West
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • 10067 Alberto Giacometti, Diego (Buste au grand nez)
    10067 Alberto Giacometti, Diego (Buste au grand nez)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus