This small poured painting, known as Red, Black and Silver, purportedly the last known work of Jackson Pollock, is one of the most famous – and controversial – in American art. It has never been viewed publicly, having been in the possession of Pollock’s former mistress, Ruth Kligman, from the time it was painted until her death in 2010. Although its provenance is remarkable, as well as unique – Kligman claimed she watched Pollock make it for her in July 1956, on the lawn outside his house in Springs, New York, and on top of a half-finished painting of her own – the Pollock Krasner Authentication Board deferred an official authentication of the work. Given the technical and scientific evidence that corroborated Kligman’s account, the motivations of the Board are largely suspected to be political. Since the dissolution of the Authentication Board in 1996, leaving no recognized authentication entity, the painting has existed in limbo.
Following Kligman’s death in 2010, the co-trustees of her estate renewed efforts to establish the truth about the painting, enlisting experts in art history, paint and chemical analysis, probability mathematics – and forensic science. In 2013, trace evidence found embedded in the paint was compared to that found on the property at Springs and in Pollock’s own shoes, finally and definitively proving the painting’s provenance.
This case not only demonstrates the challenges currently faced in the authentication of iconic works of art, but the successful use of coordinated scientific analysis, including forensic trace analysis, offers a viable course for authentication of art more widely.
Pollock and the Polar Bear Hair by Blouin Art+Auction Magazine, February 2016
A Real Pollock? On This, Art and Science Collide by Patricia Cohen, The New York Times (November 24, 2013)
How A Polar Bear Hair Could Solve The Mystery Of Jackson Pollock’s Final Painting by Paige Cooperstein, Business Insider (November 23, 2013)
New Evidence offered for authenticity of Pollock’s purported final work by Jonthan Allen, Reuters (November 8, 2013)
BUT OWNERSHIP IN DISPUTE
Working on behalf of client to substantiate claims by Peruvian Consulate that works are stolen objects of cultural heritage before negotiating settlement and/or repatriation.
Assisting client to end his decades-long quest to prove that the seascape he purchased for $20 is a genuine Winslow Homer painting. Coordinating art analysis and provenance research.
Is a $20 auction find a Winslow Homer or a fake? by Ian Shapira, The Washington Post (October 28, 2015)
Contacted by client to substantiate claim that work he purchased through a dealer, was, in fact, a genuine Willem de Kooning. Analyzed artist materials, methods, signature and inscription in the lab. Coordinated background check of seller.
Contacted by client to analyze large drip painting purportedly executed by Jackson Pollock. Lab analysis revealed anachronistic materials used, and contemporary polyethylene (plastic) found embedded in paint.
Client contacted AFI after several works purchase online were denied by authentication committees. Investigation and art analysis revealed that all are fake. Case referred to Federal law enforcement agency for criminal investigation.
Client contacted AFI after works denied authentication by Matisse Foundation. Investigation revealed drawing had been submitted five separate times over the last 60years—each time sold to another unsuspecting buyer. Strongly suspect the work is by the hand of prolific forger Elmyr de Hory.
Client contacted AFI after this work, which was purchased at a local auction house and lacked any provenance, passed initial stylistic review by Dove scholar. Analysis of artwork revealed a stylistically competent but materially incorrect forgery.