Photo: Josh Levine holds the Jackon Pollock painting. Photo by Sami Gill.
A rare Jackson Pollock painting, found in a garage at a Sun City estate, is going up for auction on Tuesday, June 20 at J. Levine Auction & Appraisal at 10345 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale.
J. Levine has spent nearly 18 months and tens of thousands of dollars researching and authenticating the forensics and ownership history of this piece. The abstract, untitled gouache painting measures 22 ½ x 32 inches with a forensic report stating, among other findings, that “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,” according to Peter Paul Biro (Forensic Studies in Art).
The painting originally came from the estate of Jenifer Gordon (Cosgriff) and was bequeathed to her half-brother residing in Arizona. Jenifer had lived in New York and was friends with art critic Clement Greenberg, Hazel Guggenheim McKinley (mid-20th century modern artist and sister of Peggy Guggenheim) and Jackson Pollock. She also was in possession of 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,” says 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 other pieces found at the estate, a Kenneth Noland diamond-shaped acrylic painting titled “Replace!,” sold at a J. Levine auction in January, 2016 for $110,000. Since that last auction, 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,” says Josh. “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,” says Josh.
He 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,” Josh explains. “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.”
Online bidding for the piece is available now, with live bidding slated to begin at 11 am (Arizona time) on June 20. Bidders must be pre-qualified in order to place a bid. A private preview of the piece is available upon request. A free, public preview will take place on Monday, June 19 from 4 to 7 pm. RSVP (required) to this event at jlevines.com/pollock or by calling 480-496-2212.