New York’s Everson Museum is selling its only Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) painting to fund efforts to diversify the collection. Painted in 1946, ‘Red Composition’ is expected to fetch between $12 million and $18 million (£9 million – £13.5 million) at Christie’s upcoming 20th Century Art auction in New York.
Funds raised by the sale will support the museum’s ‘Collecting Priorities Plan’, which was established in 2017 to boost the acquisition of works by women and artists of colour. The money will also go towards improving storage spaces and conserving objects, including a Henry Moore (1898-1986) sculpture.
“By deaccessioning a single artwork, we can make enormous strides in building a collection that reflects the amazing diversity of our community and ensure that it remains accessible to all for generations to come,” explained Everson Director Elizabeth Dunbar.
As an iconic artist in both the American and global art scene, Pollock continues to excite collectors. His works have achieved staggering prices, seeing ‘Number 19’ (1948) set an auction record for the artist of $58.4 million (£43.9 million) in 2013 at Christie’s New York sale.
‘Red Composition’ is a pivotal painting by Pollock, who was a driving force in the abstract expressionist movement. Here, Pollock fully abandons the paintbrush for the first time and instead demonstrates a breakthrough dripping technique that would become his signature style.
In a statement about the early painting, Christie’s said “this intricate and multi-faceted work stands among the first paintings in which Pollock freed paint from the interference of his brush, allowing it to take on its own form and in the process become a manifestation of true abstraction.”
The painting also possesses an impressive provenance. Legendary dealer and ardent Pollock patron Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979) was the painting’s first owner and the late New York-based collectors Dorothy and Marshall Reisman donated it to the Everson.
“As a longtime board member and benefactor of the Everson, Marshall would have been extremely happy to see his gift used for the greater good of the museum, its future sustainability, and its impact on the community,” revealed Robert Falter, a trustee of the Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation.
Although some have praised the museum for taking decisive action, others have raised concerns about why wealthy donors were unable to sufficiently support the ‘Collecting Priorities Plan’. According to a statement made by the Everson, the sale comes “at a critical time in the nation’s history and when the museum is actively working to address inequality within the institution itself and the community it serves.”