Donald Blinken, who died last week at the age of 96, is best known for founding a venture capital firm and serving as a successful political liaison with Hungary during its transition from communism during the Clinton administration. But another important part of his life story is the mark he left on the New York art scene.
In the 1950s and 60s he began collecting artists such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. As Blinken once said, these artists were “just starting to leave their mark” when he started buying their work.
Archives of American Art records donated by Blinken in 2014 reveal that Blinken was close to artists and museum figures. He was thanked by Philippe Gaston for his efforts related to the 1974 review by art critic John Russell. At Kooning’s studio, David, the late attorney and then-director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, met with Solinger to consider a possible acquisition of the institution. .
But it was with Mark Rothko that Blinken formed the strongest bond. She first met in 1956. At the time, Blinken had just started collecting art and had started visiting studios. He relied primarily on instinct to find the paintings he wanted.At Rothko’s studio, Blinken purchased three reds Through a handshake deal with only a few exchanges with the notorious security painter. The two formed a close friendship, and after Rothko’s death in 1970, Brinken became a key figure in the controversy when a legal battle over Rothko’s estate ensued.
In 1976, Rothko’s legal enforcers were fired after Rothko’s heirs were accused of fraud. That year, Brinken was appointed president of the Mark Rothko Foundation. By order of the court, the organization was awarded the majority of the works left to the artist’s family.
Blinken oversaw the donation to ensure Rothko’s permanent presence in public collections Approximately 1,000 works are housed in more than 30 museums in the United States and abroad. In doing so, these works were effectively shut out of the market. About 300 paintings and works on paper were sent to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., where Blinken had once served as trustee. Others went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Guggenheim Museum.
Brinken continued to hold exhibitions dedicated to Rothko, leveraging his relationship with the National Gallery. In the process, he asked himself: “Is this what Rothko wanted?”
In 1985, Rothko’s daughter said the resolution fulfilled the wishes of troubled artists and put an end to years of conflict.
The father of US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken, he stayed close to the political circuit and cultural activism. Blinken’s wife, Vera, is vice president of the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC that places art in US embassies abroad. Blinken, Jr., took to social media last week to attribute his life in public service to his father.
In 2017, Blinken said: financial times About the privileged time he had access to artists like Rothko. Today, he speculated, such access would be “impossible.”