One of my most memorable experiences in the art world was visiting the studio of Jackson Pollock, in the Springs (Hamptons, New York). From the moment you’re asked to put on paper boots so you don’t disturb the paint-spackled wooden floor, you enter into a world that’s something akin to a religious shrine. If you suspend disbelief, you can envision Pollock hovering over an unstretched canvas on the floor, getting into a rhythm and slinging paint, much like a Navajo shaman Sand Painter — one of Pollock’s earliest influences.
After viewing Pollock’s studio, I sought out the nearby Green River Cemetery, where he was buried. Lee Krasner’s grave was directly in front of his, which was symbolic of how she led Jackson through the art world maze to achieve success. Lee was Jackson’s wife and greatest advocate, who temporarily gave up her career as a painter, to support him. Ironically, Pollock and Krasner were interred not far from where his fatal car crash occurred (he was only forty-four when he died, in 1956). Pollock was traveling with his girlfriend Ruth Kligman, who survived, and her friend Edith Metzger (who did not). One of the great art authentication mysteries is Kligman’s claim that Pollock gave her his last painting — a modest work of art that has been extensively chronicled in books and articles. In 2012, it was set to be auctioned at Phillips, before being pulled at the last minute due to questions surrounding its authenticity.
Understanding the Pollock Drip
Viewing a classic Pollock Drip painting can be a little overwhelming. The key to understanding his work is totally immersing yourself in it. With the exception of Blue Poles (National Gallery of Australia) and Untiled (Mural) (Tehran Museum of Art), I have studied virtually every one of his major pictures in person, including: Lavender Mist, Lucifer, Alchemy, Number 1A, 1948, Number 1, 1949, One: Number 31,1950, and Autumn Rhythm. When you stand in front of a Pollock, you realize his claim there were no accidents and that he was in complete control, rings true. While I have been enthralled by the work of his fellow Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, the sheer power and emotional content of Pollock takes you to another level.
The closure of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation authentication committee in 1996, and the passing of the scholars Eugene Thaw and Francis O’Connor, co-authors of the Jackson Pollock Catalogue Raisonné, left a void in authenticating Jackson Pollock’s art. We hope to fill that void by offering a two-tier approach. Richard Polsky Art Authentication will initially examine paintings on paper and canvas to determine the possibility of a work being genuine. Based on our analysis of the imagery and provenance, if we believe there’s a high probability that the work’s authentic, we will then refer the owner to Jennifer Mass, Ph.D. of Scientific Analysis of Fine Art, LLC for independent scientific examination and confirmation. Please note: These two services are available exclusive of one another. You’re welcome to hire us on an individual basis.
Jackson Pollock is probably the most faked and forged artist around. The documentary, Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?, is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. When the museum director and connoisseur Thomas Hoving — who gave me a blurb for the cover of my book, I Sold Andy Warhol (too soon) — pronounced the featured painting “dead on arrival,” the art world got a taste of the complexity of the Pollock market. Whether you walk by a commercial gallery, browse eBay, or attend flea markets and country auctions, you are sure to come across a purported Pollock Drip painting. Yet, forgeries even turn up at leading galleries. Who can forget the forged Pollock sold by the now-shuttered Knoedler gallery — which unbelievably contained a Pollock signature which was misspelled.