It was haggled down to $5 at a San Bernardino garage sale, and now it’s sitting in a Toronto gallery with a $50 million price tag. The reason? It’s probably an authentic Jackson Pollock.
When retired truck driver Teri Horton found the painting fifteen years ago, it was listed at $8—a price slightly too high for what was meant to be a gag gift for a depressed friend. When reselling the canvas at her own garage sale later, an art professor spotted it and suggested that Horton might have a treasure on her hands. Her response became the title of a 2006 documentary made about the painting: Who the Fuck is Jackson Pollock?
Paul Jackson Pollock was an influential force in the school of Abstract Expressionism, known for his busy paintings created from paint splatters and drips. The last Pollock to be auctioned on the art market—known as No. 5, 1948 and previously owned by David Geffen—sold for an unprecedented $140 million, making Teri Horton’s $50 million appraisal seem somehow less preposterous.
How the famous painting arrived for sale at Toronto’s Gallery Delisle is another remarkable part of the story. Frustrated with American art dealers and auction houses who questioned the painting’s authenticity, Horton chose to have the work analyzed forensically by internationally renowned expert Peter Paul Biro. Biro was able to match a fingerprint with another known Pollock work and affirmatively compared signature drip patterns. Then, on a whim that nobody at the Delisle Gallery really expected to pan out, Horton was approached by director and owner Michelle Delisle, and the contract to sell the painting (now known as Untitled, 1948) was hammered out last month. It officially goes on sale November 13.
The little gallery that could has also only been open for six months, and its highest sale to date has been a $9,000 work by local landscape painter Olaf Schneider. Art dealers charge a significant commission on paintings sold, and if Delisle can unload Horton’s likely Pollock, not only will they reap a healthy percentage of the sale, but Delisle could gain overnight credibility on the international art market.
As for endearingly gruff Teri Horton, who still lives in a mobile home and once planned to use the painting for dart practice, she doesn’t mince words about her distaste for her country’s auction houses. “I want to afford Canadians the opportunity to hang this Jackson Pollock drip painting on their wall,” she says. “I do not want the USA to ever own this painting by their own famous ‘homeboy’ artist.”