Mark Rothko, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague


In 1988 i turned 30 and i decided to see the great Mark Rothko retrospective in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne


to celebrate my coming of age. I bought a train ticket in advance and the evening before i had a friend


around who brought me a bottle of jenever (Dutch gin) which we bravely emptied for the best part. I only had a


few hours of sleep. On my birthday i decided to skip my breakfast to catch the earliest train to Cologne. I


thought i’d have a nap in the train and a cheese sandwich, but i couldn’t sleep and the sandwich made me


almost sick. So, more dead than alive i arrived in Cologne where i dragged myself straight to the Ludwig and to Rothko.


It was one of the best experiences in my life and i forgot my hangover and the fact that i had come

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of age at last. There were lots of people, but as i remember them, they were all very polite. Sometimes i

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even had the idea i was Moses, they were the Red Sea and the Rothko’s were the Promised Land. That only changed

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when Markus Lüpertz entered the room. Obviously he was the real Moses. I can’t stand Moses ever since. After Rothko i

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saw the rest of the museum which took me quite a few hours. It all made me very hungry and, being

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in Cologne, i expected to have a hearty meal with Schweinefleisch (German pork) in the museum restaurant. But, well, all they had

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on offer was some tasteless pasta with a few shreds of pork (i think they even called it carbonara). To say it

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in post-postmodern language: i problematized the greatness of Rothko related to this ambiguous meal. I took the train back to The

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Hague and got out at Eindhoven as in those days they had an excellent station buffet there where i ate chicken and chips.

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In between Eindhoven and The Hague i slept at last and dreamt about Rothko’s paintings. Late in the evening, back in

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my local pub, i drank the jenever i missed the evening before. Ah, that was Rothko in 1988! Nowadays i don’t

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drink much and today i enjoyed the present Rothko exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum a lot. The presentation is better than the one

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in the Ludwig 26/27 years ago. Except that the other visitors today didn’t behave like the Red Sea and except for the

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combination with Mondrian in the last room. Yes Gemeentemuseum, we KNOW you are THE Mondrian museum in this world. And when

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i saw that ridiculously big frame around Victory Boogie-woogie, i really had the idea the world might look better with a few jenevers.

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[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

Bertus Pieters

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