Over the weekend, Francis Outred announced over Instagram that Christie’s would be selling a small Jackson Pollock drip painting in its London sale of Contemporary art. The work carries an estimate in line with the sale in New York two and a half years ago of Number 12, 1950 for $18.2m. One of the unanswered questions in this somewhat quiet launch is why the work is being sold in London instead of New York where it would be expected to do well. Is this an indication of interest from Europe and Asia or a signal that Christie’s has fair amount of traffic in May or simply a feather in Francis Outred’s cap.
Only time will answer those questions. Until then, we have Christie’s catalogue information:
Jackson Pollock – Number 21, 1950 (1950), Estimate: £10,000,000-15,000,000
With its opulent, marbled galaxy of dripped, splashed and spattered paint, Number 21, 1950 is a beautiful and important work from the peak of Jackson Pollock’s iconic ‘drip period’. It was included in the artist’s seminal third solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, which opened on 28 November 1950. Now recognised as the crowning moment of Pollock’s career, this exhibition contained several of his greatest large-scale masterpieces, all of which were painted that year: Number One, 1950 (Lavender Mist) (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.); Number 27, 1950 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York); Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); One: Number 31, 1950 (Museum of Modern Art, New York); and Number 32, 1950 (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf). Number 21,1950 was among thirteen square-format works in the exhibition. Each roughly 22 x 22 inches in size, these were painted on the reverse sides of Masonite boards given to Pollock by his elder brother Sande McCoy, a commercial screen printer who had a stock of panels left over from the manufacture of a baseball board game in 1948. Other examples of this singular, jewel-like series are held in major museum collections worldwide, including Number 15, 1950 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Number 16, 1950 (Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro), Number 17, 1950 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), Number 18, 1950 (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York), Number 20, 1950 (University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson), and Number 22, 1950 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).