Do you see $15 million there? I don’t. And not simply because paying that kind of money seems obscene when the only justification is “it’s a Jackson Pollock.”
The hitherto unknown work evidently showed up in a garage in Arizona in January of 2016. It was part of the Jenifer Gordon Cosgriff estate, someone whose principal claim to fame was to have hung around in the 1950s with Hazel Guggenheim McKinley, Clement Greenberg…and Jackson Pollock. Her ‘stuff’ found its way to Arizona after her death in the ‘90s to be garaged by her surviving brother, a midwesterner whose plain sense could tell that this emperor had no clothes.
After the brother’s death, the auctioneer called upon to evaluate/liquidate the estate evidently didn’t share the same plain sense and spent tens of thousands of dollars tracking down Jenifer Gordon Cosgriff, doing forensic analysis & restoration of the painting, and creating a sufficient provenance to ascertain its authenticity — which he now estimates realizing $5 to $15 million at auction. And why? “It’s a Jackson Pollock.” It’s very likely an early one, executed c. 1949, done in gouache and a far distant, smallish, cousin to Pollock’s best, often gigantic, drip paintings. It isn’t very good (in fact it’s awful) and has the look of a studio cast-off, something Pollock himself was unlikely to have cared much about. He may even have given it off-handedly to Cosgriff or she may have retrieved it from the trash herself since it needed significant restoration. Who knows?
It’s not that “there’s a sucker born every minute” … it’s that few seem to realize that seeing is an art as much as the art form seen. And, like any art, it requires work and it takes practice to get right. We’d like to believe that seeing is something that just ‘happens,’ but it doesn’t. So much jumps between what our eye picks up and what actually registers with mind & heart you sometimes have to wonder what’s really there! IF our eyes could remain empty of interpretation, if we could quiet all the voices and forget all their names, what occurs in the silence we might call seeing … but, alas, flushing interpretation from the eye/the mind is impossible work. And yet it is impossible work that must be done if we care about what meets the eye or seeing what’s really there to be seen. It can be daunting and few want to do the impossible because they doubt the work is worth the reward. Or maybe they’re lazy. So, “it’s a Jackson Pollock, isn’t it?” becomes good enough.