The Price of Color in Mark Rothko’s Paintings

Posted: 16 Feb 2020 Last revised: 20 Aug 2020

See all articles by Ventura Charlin

Ventura Charlin

V.C. Consultants; EVENTUS ANALYTICS; V.C. Consultants

Arturo Cifuentes


Date Written: January 16, 2020


The relationship between prices of paintings at public auctions and their attributes has received much attention in recent years. However, the effects of color have been mostly absent from these studies. The present study explored the relationship between price and color in Rothko’s post 1950 paintings, which were dominated by color rather than figurative elements. We characterized the color features of the paintings in terms of their dominant hues and luminosity. In addition, we developed two additional metrics to evaluate color contrast, and palette diversity. We found that in general the market favored diverse color compositions, and preferred reds over greens, blues over yellows, and lighter-colored paintings. We also identified two distinct price regimes in the period studied: a first period, dominated by enthusiasm for the artist, regardless of the painting’s characteristics; and a second period, driven by color-related attributes.

Keywords: Art market, Mark Rothko, Pricing models, Auction prices, Color, Color representation, Abstract Expressionism, Color palette, Color Diversification,Color contrast

JEL Classification: A12, C00, C40, G10, Z11

Suggested Citation

Charlin, Ventura and Cifuentes, Arturo, The Price of Color in Mark Rothko’s Paintings (January 16, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Ventura Charlin (Contact Author)

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United States

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Arturo Cifuentes

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