Most people have accumulated junk inherited from one relative or another. So imagine finding an authentic Jackson Pollock painting worth up to $15 million stashed in your garage? Well, a Sun City, Arizona man did!
According to CBS News, nearly two years ago, appraiser Josh Levine was asked to examine some autographed Lakers memorabilia. The owner of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal was prepared to check out some Kobe Bryant signatures, and instead, he wound up finding something far more valuable. Levine found the mother load.
“It was all packed up just all in piles. You could see library boxes of personal effects, tax returns, letters, correspondence and then these stacks of art.”
The client, who currently resides in an assisted care facility and wishes not to be named, inherited the collection of art from his sister. It has all been sitting in his garage since 1992. Levine looked at the paint splattered work and suspected that this was the work of the legendary American artist, Jackson Pollock.
Pollock is famous for his splatter and drip paintings that are considered masterpieces of Abstract Expressionism. Pollock created his art in the 1940s until 1956, when he was killed in an alcohol-related car crash at the age of 44.
Although Levine suspected this was an authentic Pollock, he hired a private investigator to uncover any link between the owner’s sister, Jennifer Gordon, to the work of art in the garage.
As Pollock’s work is often imitated, Levine understood that he had to make it clear that this was original, not a fake. The most expensive painting ever sold was a Pollock. The work, No. 5, 1948 was sold for astounding $140,000,000 to an anonymous buyer in 2006. Over the years, there have been many Pollock forgeries. Levine knew he did not have a fake, but he had to make sure that he had the full story of how this piece wound up in an Arizona garage.
It turns out, Gordon hung out with the New York art set. She was friends with art critic, Clement Greenberg, who, early on, recognized the brilliance of Pollock. She was also good friends with the renowned art collector, Peggy Guggenheim. Both friends knew and supported Pollock, as well as Cora Kelley Ward, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski. There were works from each of these artists in the collection.
“Jenifer Gordon was a socialite in the New York scene art world, at the right place at the right time. All the artists were hanging out at her apartment including Jackson Pollock.”
In addition, Levine hired a forensics expert to date the paint, and to ensure that this was not a forgery. Previous forgeries were uncovered because of paint used after Pollock’s death.
Anyone who watched Antiques Roadshow or Pawn Stars knows that authenticating art and getting the story increases the value of the work. The story of Jenifer Gordon adds to the story of the exciting Pollock find.
The painting goes up for auction on June 20 in Scottsdale. The piece is expected to fetch between $10 and $15 million dollars. Levine has done his job, and he is fully confident that the work is authentic.
“I’m brave enough to call it a Jackson Pollock and put my entire reputation on it.”
Levine does feel a bit badly that his exhilarating 18-month quest is over, and he stated, “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
What about the owner of the piece of art? Did he share in his sister’s enthusiasm for art and realize he had such a value piece of work in his garage? Levine says no.
“The owner of the painting had no idea what he had. He said to me, ‘I didn’t even know who he was until you told me about him.’”
Have you ever been surprised at the value of an item that you inherited from a family member?
[Featured Image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]