No. 5, 1948
No. 5, 1948 is a painting by Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), the United States painter whose works sparked the emergence of abstract expressionism. Until 2011 it was understood to be the most expensive painting ever sold. The work features the artist's famous drip-and-pour style, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint which, in the opinions of some, resemble a thick bird’s nest. It measures 8’ x 4’ on a sheet of fiberboard.
Technique and the “drip period”
Pollock’s most famous paintings are from the “drip period” between 1947 and 1950.
He was introduced to the use of liquid paint in 1936 at an experimental workshop in New York City, held by David Alfaro Siqueiros. Pollock’s “drip” technique found inspiration in Indian sandpainting demonstrations in the 1940s and the Mexican surrealists and surrealist automatism.
Paint pouring techniques first appeared in Pollock’s early 1940s works “Male and Female” and “Composition with Pouring I”. Thereafter, Pollock began painting with his canvas laid out on the studio floor. Around this time it became known as his “drip” technique.
After August 8, 1949, a four-page spread in Life Magazine which asked “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” earned Pollock popular status.
Time Magazine nicknamed Pollock “Jack the Dripper” after his unique painting style.
Pollock abandoned the drip style at the peak of his fame.
Rumoured sale of “the most expensive painting ever sold”
In 2006, The New York Times reported that No. 5, 1948, had “possibly” become the most expensive painting ever sold when it was sold by US media magnate David Geffen for about $140m (373m).
If true, the sale would have made No. 5 the most valuable work ever sold, either at auction or privately, surpassing the sale of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks SKG had allegedly sold his Jackson Pollock No. 5 with two other works during that time; also including the important sale Willem de Kooning’s Woman III. It was rumoured that he was trying to increase his capital and bid for the Los Angeles Times.
The deal was said to have been brokered by Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer.
The purported buyer was Mexican financier David Martinez, a managing partner at Fintech Advisory Limited. However, Martinez’s law firm, Shearman & Sterling, soon announced that Martinez did not own the painting nor possess any rights to it.
No. 5’s alleged sale is still shrouded in mystery, and has since been further refuted by Matinez’s law firm. Josh Baer, an auction expert, has also claimed that David Martinez is not the owner of No. 5, 1948.
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