Is this a real Jackson Pollock? A mysterious trove of pictures rocks the art world





When Jackson Pollock smashed his green Oldsmobile convertible into a tree in East Hampton, on New York's Long Island, 51 years ago this month, his violent death at the age of 44 only enhanced his mythic status as the iconic American renegade, who'd splattered—or dripped—his tortured psyche across his revolutionary canvases. Now firmly established as the most important American artist of the 20th century, Pollock still makes headlines—most of them containing dollar signs. Last November an early Pollock drip painting, "Number 5, 1948," was sold by David Geffen for a reported $140 million—the highest known price ever paid for a work of art. In September the headlines about a show of paintings that could be Pollocks will contain a different symbol: a question mark.

Back in 2002, more than two dozen small paintings labeled POLLOCK EXPERIMENTS were found at the Home Sweet Home moving company in East Hampton, in a storage locker belonging to the late photographer and graphic artist Herbert Matter, a close friend of the painter's. Though the provenance was impeccable—these were not drip paintings picked up at a yard sale—a debate broke out over their authenticity once the trove's existence was announced in 2005. When the pictures are shown in public for the first time, at an exhibition at the McMullen Museum at Boston College, opening Sept. 1, the arguments are sure to erupt all over again—even though the works won't be labeled BY JACKSON POLLOCK.

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