NEW YORK (AFP): A pair of paintings by iconic abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko sold Monday for a whopping $76.5 million, the auction house Sotheby’s said. Rothko’s “Untitled,” a blue and purple oil painting from 1970 sold for $39.9 million. It was estimated to earn up to $20 million.  “Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange),” an oil painting created in 1955, fetched $36.6 million and was expected to sell for as much as $30 million.  Final sale prices include commission, while estimates do not.  

On Twitter, the auction house said earnings from the Rothko works “exceeded expectations.” The paintings came from the private collection of Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, heir to the Listerine mouthwash fortune, who died in March.  Two more Rothko paintings will go on sale Tuesday - an acrylic painting called “Untitled” from 1969 and “No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange),” an oil painting created in 1951.  Rothko, born in what is now Latvia, died in 1970. He became a giant of the modern art world through his characteristic style: a seemingly simple but arresting juxtaposition of blocks of vibrant color.