NEW YORK—The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which disbanded its authentication board a decade ago, is looking into the authorship of 32 recently discovered artworks purported to be the creations of Jackson Pollock.
Earlier this month New York dealer Mark Borghi announced the discovery of the works, which had been found by Alex Matter, the son of abstract painter Mercedes Matter and photographer-filmmaker Herbert Matter. Borghi had the group—including 22 small drip paintings on board, along with drawings and other unfinished works—authenticated by Pollock expert Ellen G. Landau, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, author of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné and a former member of the foundation’s authentication board.
Attorney for the foundation Ronald Spencer told ARTnewsletter that it is seeking a consensus of Pollock experts before making a judgment. He would not specify which experts would be consulted. Eugene Victor Thaw and Francis O’Connor, coauthors of the Pollock catalogue raisonné and former members of the foundation’s authentication board, did not return telephone calls from ARTnewsletter seeking comment.
“The relationship between the Pollock family and the Matter family is well-known and well- documented,” foundation chairman Charles Bergman told ARTnewsletter. “Ellen Landau is a very respected Pollock scholar, but I think that for something of this magnitude, one would want a consensus of Pollock experts to decide if [the works] are by Pollock.”
Earlier this year Borghi notified the foundation of the discovery of the works, providing it with a set of transparencies and requesting permission to reproduce the images through the Artists Rights Society, the foundation’s copyright agency. Spencer says the society mistakenly granted permission to reproduce the works before consulting with the foundation. After the images appeared with the Pollock-Krasner Foundation credit line on Borghi’s Website (www.pollockexhibit.com), the foundation issued a press release announcing that it was “presently reserving judgment” on the works and had withdrawn copyright permission “pending resolution of authenticity.”
The foundation’s authentication board was dissolved after the 1995 publication of a supplement to the four-volume catalogue raisonné that was published in 1978. Since then the foundation has not authenticated works, and Bergman reports it has no plans to publish another supplement. Instead, the foundation recommends that owners of purported Pollocks submit them to the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), a nonprofit organization that consults with confidential experts to determine if a work is authentic. Borghi says he did not submit the works to IFAR. “What’s the point,” he says, “of submitting works to a place where you don’t know who is looking at the pictures?”
Borghi, who represents the Mercedes Matter estate, says Alex Matter found the works while cleaning out a storage facility belonging to his father in East Hampton, N.Y., about three years ago following the death of his mother in 2001. After arranging to clean and stabilize the works, many of which were covered in soot, Borghi consulted Landau about their authenticity. “I was blown away when I saw them,” Landau recalls.
Landau says she has “direct knowledge of the closeness of the relationship” between the Matters and Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, also a noted artist, through interviews she conducted with Krasner and Matter before their deaths, as well as through various publications that document their friendship. Landau says Krasner, who became friends with Mercedes Matter in 1936, introduced Pollock to Herbert Matter in early 1942 and that their friendship lasted until Pollock’s death in 1956.
The purported works by Pollock were found in the storage facility wrapped in brown paper with a handwritten label, believed to be in Herbert Matter’s writing, which states in part, “Pollock (1946-49), Tudor City (1940-49), 32 Jackson Pollock experimental works (gift + purchase).” Landau believes that most of the works were painted around 1948-49 in the Tudor City studio Matter had between 1940-49.
Pollock’s initials appear on the backs of three of the paintings, says Landau. Also found by Alex Matter in the storage facility were letters from Krasner and Pollock to the Matters as well as cards hand-drawn by Pollock for his parents, and unknown photographs of Pollock taken by Matter. Previously unknown works by Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Philip Guston and Willem de Kooning also were discovered in the facility.
Borghi, who says none of the works are presently for sale, would not comment on their value, but last year a small drip painting on paper, formerly owned by the Museum of Modern Art and dated 1949, fetched a record $11.65 million at Christie’s. Landau says the drip paintings on board fill in a gap in the catalogue raisonné, which documents only one mixed-media work from 1948-51.
Borghi, Matter and Landau are organizing a museum exhibition planned for next year that will feature Pollock’s works and explore the relationship between him, Krasner and the Matters. Exhibition venues for a national and international tour are currently being arranged.
“I remain confident that their provenance is impeccable and that they are stylistically and technically consistent with Pollocks,” says Landau. “We welcome having any Pollock experts that the foundation recommends take a look at them.”