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Mark Rothko painting 'No. 1' sells for surprising $75.1 million

Mark Rothko painting 'No. 1' sells for surprising $75.1 million
A painting by Mark Rothko, "No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue)," sold for $75.1 million at an auction in New York on Tuesday. (Sotheby's)

A highly coveted painting by Mark Rothko has sold for $75.1 million at auction in New York. "No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue)," which the artist created in 1954, didn't break a record, but it did command the second highest price ever for a Rothko, according to Sotheby's.

The auction house had expected the painting to bring in between $35 million and $50 million. The painting had been in the collection of former Sotheby's president John Marion since 1982, according to the Wall Street Journal. The buyer's identity hasn't been disclosed.

In May, another Rothko painting, "Orange, Red, Yellow," sold for $87 million at a Christie's auction, setting a record for the artist.

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On Tuesday, Sotheby's also auctioned off a Jackson Pollock drip painting for $40.4 million. "Number 4 (1951)" came from the collection of Sidney Kohl, a financier, and his wife. Bloomberg reported that Kohl purchased the painting in 1974 for just $105,000.

A "pope" painting by Francis Bacon brought in $29.8 million and a Willem de Kooning painting "Abstraction" sold for $19.7 million at the same auction.

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