A painting by American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, which once formed part of a private New Zealand collection, is expected to fetch millions at auction next week.

The artwork, part of his famed Untitled series, goes under the hammer at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on March 8.

It is being sold with an estimate of $5.2m - $6.96m.

The piece, acrylic on paper laid on canvas, has changed hands several times since it was painted in 1969 - a year before Rothko's suicide, aged 66.

Advertisement

Sotheby's says: "Untitled captures within its expansive borders Mark Rothko's definitively brilliant ability to harness the forces of colour, contour, and shadow to transport his viewer out of the realm of the mundane, thereby bearing witness to Dore Ashton's remark that, 'Rothko had reduced his imagery to the most subtle analogies of states of the soul and, with a mixture of perplexity and exaltation, had pursued a vision'."

Born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) in 1903, he emigrated to the United States as a youth.

In the mid-20th century, he belonged to a New York circle of painters that included Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, who became known as the Abstract Expressionists.

The painting by American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko from his famed
The painting by American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko from his famed "Untitled" series has changed hands several times since it was painted in 1969 - a year before Rothko's death, aged 66. Photo / Supplied