The idea of Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre dates back to 2002 when it became a symbolic starting point for the homecoming of Mark Rothko, the world-renowned artist and founder of abstract expressionism. By way of celebrating the artist’s centenary, his children, Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, donated to the city a total of forty museum-quality reproductions of Mark Rothko’s work. These treasures became the foundation of the future art centre’s emerging collection. In 2005, Daugavpils hosted the first international painting plein air named after Mark Rothko. It was organised as a homage to the genius artist and an acknowledgement of the vast geography of his many followers. The plein air became a tradition and a solid ground for continued growth of the collection. According to the plein air idea, at least two newly created artworks were to be donated to the budding centre. In 2013, the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre collection already contained over two hundred paintings from the plein air. At present, they make up the Gold Fund of the collection and remain testaments of a time when an ostensibly utopian idea became reality.
Mark Rothko Art Centre was conceived as a forum for multicultural dialogue where the past, still alive in architectural forms, meets the creative momentum of the future. A lively programme of international symposia and exhibition projects makes the centre a magnet for professional contemporary artists from Latvia and abroad. Each year the collection is expanded with donations from participants of international symposia in a variety of media (painting, graphics, ceramics, photography, sculpture and textiles), pushing the geographical boundaries of the collection and demonstrating the diversity, individualism and experimentational zeal of artistic expression. The artists’ individual donations are a testament to successful cooperation in exhibition projects and a homage to Mark Rotko’s persona, whose spirit seems to be a constant presence on the centre’s premises, setting the tone for its very existence.
Equally essential to building the centre’s collection is preservation of memorial values and aiding intergenerational succession in the field of the arts. Therefore, the centre takes a dedicated stance to building memorial collections of Daugavpils-born artists (Pēteris Martinsons, Sigurds Vīdzirkste, Silva Linarte), keeping their memory and using the language of the arts to talk about their personalities and creative legacies.
At the end of 2018, Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre entered into an agreement with artist and philanthropist Basil Alkazzi, which stipulated the establishment of the Basil Alkazzi Acquisitions Fund. It enabled the centre to supplement its collection with quality works from aspiring and experienced Latvian and international painters and printmakers. With valued support from the fund, the collection was expanded with works by artists already featured there (Sigita Daugule, Sandra Krastiņa, Vineta Kaulača, Anita Meldere, Guna Millersone) as well as enriched with artworks by renowned masters (Inta Celmiņa, Edvards Grūbe, Džemma Skulme, Osvalds Zvejsalnieks) and promising young creators (Sandra Strēle, Mētra Štelmahere). The collection also acquired paintings by celebrated artists with local affiliations (Sigurds Vīdzirkste, Jacques Schapiro) and some of the best creative outputs by artists from Latgale region (Valda Mežbārde, Agra Ritiņa, Ingūna Liepa, Ilze Griezāne, etc.).