Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

Rothko and The Four Seasons: Those Sons of Bitches

The Four Seasons Restaurant is one of the swankiest places to have a meal in New York- so swanky that Mark Rothko decided he didn’t want his paintings hung there. Rothko’s Seagram Murals were commissioned by the Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson designed restaurant before it opened in 1959. Rothko being the spit fire he was, accepted the commission and vowed to create “something that will ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room.” But in actuality, the painter was so disgusted by the pretentious air in the Four Seasons, that he decided to pull the paintings all together. The pieces now hang at London’s Tate Gallery, Japan’s Kawamura Memorial Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In 2012, some dork at the Tate walked up the the Black on Maroon piece and vandalized it with “Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism.”

Rothko's Seagram Murals at the Tate

Rothko’s Seagram Murals at the Tate

The Four Seasons in 1959

The Four Seasons in 1959

The Four Seasons itself is no stranger to art, continually renting works from the Museum of Modern Art to up the culture ante in the historic restaurant. Picasso’s curtain designed bfor the Ballets Russes ballet Le Tricorne has hung between the Pool Room and the Grill Room since 1959, but was sadly removed in 2014 (I enjoyed it one last time over a delicious 3 course lunch), and now lives at the New York Historical Society . The restaurant closed in 2016.

FOurseasons

Although too swanky for Rothko, the Four Seasons was known for a few firsts, including a changing seasonal menu, using fresh mushrooms (apparently only dried ones were used in the 1950s) and printing menus in English. It was also the most expensive restaurant ever built when it was opened.

That said, their $29 lunch special at the bar, which sits under a giant Richard Lippold sculpture, is not only fairly priced, but one of the best lunches I’ve ever had.

Who: Mark Rothko (and rotating modern masters)

What: Seagram Mural controversy

Where: Four Seasons Restaurant,  99 East 52nd Street

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