Restoring Rothko


Filmed over 18 months, this is the story behind the restoration of Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon.

Mark Rothko’s ‘Black on Maroon’ 1958 goes back on public view at Tate Modern on 13 May 2014, following 18 months of intensive work by the Conservation team and colleagues across Tate.

The painting, one of the iconic Seagram murals which Rothko donated to Tate in 1970, was vandalized with graffiti ink in October 2012. It has since been the subject of detailed research and restoration by the core treatment team of Rachel Barker, Bronwyn Ormsby and Patricia Smithen.

Over nine months the team researched methods for removing the ink from the delicate paint layers, using special test canvases to assess the appropriate solvents and cleaning methods. Rachel then spent a further nine months working on Black on Maroon itself, removing the majority of the surface ink before restoring the painting’s surface.

Video from Tate

Cite this page as: Tate, "Restoring Rothko," in Smarthistory, May 7, 2017, accessed July 13, 2024,