The discovery of a lost Jackson Pollock painting is always big news in the art world. Now such a painting is going under the hammer on Tuesday, June 20 at J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale Arizona. The small auction room has spent 18 months and tens of thousands of dollars researching the Abstract, untitled gouache painting measures 22 ½ x 32 inches. Forensics and ownership history has been extensively investigated.
“I believe this painting was one of Pollock’s missing gouaches from the period of 1945 to 1949,” J. Levine
The report findings include “the dating of the painting to the mid-twentieth century is well established as no pigments or binding media introduced in the late 1950s and 1960s have been detected. Furthermore, the artist’s working materials and painting technique are illuminated.” The full forensic report is available.
The painting comes with strong provenance, having come from the estate of Jenifer Gordon (Cosgriff) and bequeathed to her half-brother, who resides in an Arizona retirement community. Gordon (Cosgriff) lived in New York and was a known, lifelong friend of Clement Greenberg, an influential visual art critic most closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century, Hazel Guggenheim McKinley, a mid-20th-century modern artist and sister of Peggy Guggenheim, and Jackson Pollock. In addition, she also was in possession of various notable and listed art including authenticated pieces by Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Hazel Guggenheim McKinley and Cora Kelley Ward.
“Interestingly, this estate first came to our attention when we were contacted to take a look at a signed 1992 L.A. Lakers poster,” said Josh Levine, owner, and CEO of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal. “We ended up signing a contract to auction the contents of the estate, and that’s when we found many of the paintings stored away.”
One of the finds, a Kenneth Noland diamond-shaped acrylic painting titled “Replace!,” caught the attention of art collectors when J. Levine auctioned it in January 2016. A phone bidder from New Jersey won the piece for $110,000 hammer price. The Olitski, Ward, and McKinley sold in the same auction.
Since January 2016, Josh Levine has been on a quest to authenticate the unsigned Pollock. “I found Jenifer’s life story quite fascinating and began traveling down a wormhole of sorts as I read about past art shows and parties she attended, and read memoirs of Clement Greenberg’s wife. Clement was known to have nurtured Pollock and other abstract artists of that era,” Levine said. “I spent time on the phone interviewing artist Barbara McKay, who was friends with both Jenifer and Clement. I reviewed the letters of Hazel Guggenheim McKinley, Peggy Guggenheim’s sister. I found a lot of written material linking Jenifer to New York’s art scene and Pollock’s social circles.”
Describing his initial research as “maddening,” Levine hired a private investigative team and a forensic expert to help him put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“Based on their work and findings, I believe this painting was one of Pollock’s missing gouaches in his catalogue raisonné or from the period of 1945 to 1949,” Levine said.
Levine is well aware that scholars debate about the authenticity of Pollock paintings. The Pollock-Krasner Foundation does not authenticate paintings, and there have been many high-profile disputes in the past regarding whether or not a painting was an original Pollock.
“The forensic report really just reaffirmed what I already believed to be true based on the provenance,” Levine said. “I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching how this Pollock could end up here in Arizona, and I am confident that this is an original Pollock.”
If anything this will elevate the reputation of the little-known J. Levine Auctions & Appraisal to a new and challenging level.
Online bidding is available now, with live bidding slated to begin at 11 a.m. PT on June 20. A private preview is available upon request. A free, public preview will take place on Monday, June 19 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Bidders must be pre-qualified in order to place a bid. The auction house is located at 10345 N. Scottsdale Rd., in Scottsdale.
Description: Artist: Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) Title: Untitled Gouache Subject: Abstract composition in the style of Abstract Expressionism Medium: Mixed, enamel and water based paints Support: Paper glued to Masonite Dimensions: 22 ½ x 32 inches Markings, date, signature: None
Condition: The painting is executed on heavy paper. The paper appears to be fairly rough. It is glued to a sheet of Masonite. The paper sheet was glued to the Masonite board. The painting is buckled in some areas and has delaminated from its support. There are areas where the paper has broken off along the edges. There is evidence of attempted repairs. The painting at some point has suffered water damage. This is evidenced in the bright whitewashed off streaks exposing layers below. This is unsurprising as paints except for the off-white base are water soluble. The painting is heavily soiled. The layer of contamination is water soluble. This was tested by carefully wiping small areas of the painted surface with a water-dampened cotton swab. Possibly the smoke and water damage are contemporaneous. The painting’s orientation is likely as shown. This is based on the direction of the off-white curlicues that appear all over the painting suggesting a right-hander person. In the foregoing, references to various details will refer to that orientation. The painting is framed in a studio style thin frame. The Masonite panel is affixed to the frame by small nails from the front. A number of these nails are visible where the paper has broken away. Along the right edge, two layers of paper are visible (page 36). This is a repair where the painting was patched on the verso. Also observed are droplets of red paint that appear both on the repair and the rest of the painting (page 35) as well as black paint. Paints used in the repaired are consistent with those used elsewhere in the painting. This is strongly suggestive that the artist was repairing his own work. Furthermore, it also suggests that considerable afterthought has gone into the composition. The adhesive used to mount the painting on the Masonite board is water soluble thus it is likely to be some form of animal glue.
Provenance: From the estate of Jenifer Gordon (Cosgriff), friend of Clement Greenberg (influential visual art critic most closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century) and Hazel Guggenheim McKinley (mid-20th century modern artist and sister of Peggy Guggenheim) was in possession of various notable and listed art from the modern art movement during the same period, including an authenticated Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Cora Kelley Ward, David Porter, John Charles Ford, Louis Siegriest, Isamu Noguchi and this Pollock. Full biographic story available upon request.
Pollock painting to be auctioned June 20. Photo courtesy of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal.