Record Price for Jackson Pollock Painting

The New York Times has reported that a Jackson Pollock drip painting owned by David Geffen has been sold for $140 million. If confirmed, this would make it the most expensive painting in the world.

“Just last month Mr. Geffen sold two other 20th-century paintings a Jasper Johns and a Willem de Kooning for a total of $143.5 million. Given that he is among many business figures who has expressed interest in buying The Los Angeles Times, media industry analysts speculated that he was trying to raise cash for a potential bid. The Pollock, a densely tangled composition in browns and yellows, is unusually large, measuring about 4 by 8 feet, and was painted on fiberboard”. NY Times (may require free registration to view full article)

most expensive painting in the world

It looks like a lot of major art collectors want to own “the most expensive painting in the world” and are prepared to pay anything for it. I’m not saying that Jackson Pollock or Gustav Klimt don’t deserve to have such a title, but it would be interesting to see what buyers are now willing to pay for an important work by Vincent van Gogh or Pablo Picasso.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Excellent investment.. ;))

  2. As we all very know, most things, if not all things, are commodities and therefore monetary value is placed on them. One question to ask is a certain commodity actually worth the value placed on it. Some will argue that something is worth what someone pays for it. Hence, well known artists’(dead or alive) works are now ‘worth’ X amount.

    So yes, Picassos and Van Goghs will sell for such prices. Let’s face it, there are many extremely wealthy people that can spend what the average guy can’t truly imagine. In some cases, 140 million is but pocket change.

    Is ART today overpriced? In my opinion it is. Saying that, I’d love to have such money to be able to have these pieces that have recently been sold.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We already know that Steve Wynn was selling a Picasso for $140M (before he accidentally punched a hole in it).

    The price for this Pollock is stunning. My local university owns a huge Pollock painting, it’s probably his most significant work, as it was his first painting to use any “drip painting” techniques, it was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim. It’s been languishing in obscurity in our small art museum in Iowa for decades. I always stun people by telling them the painting is probably worth at least $50M. But now I’ll have to revise that estimate, it’s probably worth $100M, maybe it would approach $140M in today’s market.

  4. Well if one wants it that bad and has the money for it, does it really matter how much money it sells for?

    Perhaps the negative side effect is that museums won’t be able to afford pieces like this, at least government run ones, and that the puclic won’t be able to see them in the same way.

    I do believe people should of course be allowed to privately own masters, I just think it’s sad when they aren’t available for the public to view at all. Though a lot of private collectors of course let people in to see them.

    Obviously it’s worth $140 to the person buying it, even if the rest of the world would disagree.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Indeed it does matter how much works of art sell for. It sets a precedent and 140 million is now the benchmark.

    Many private collectors do display their collections or, at least, parts of them by, for example, making loans to musuems.

    Yes, it’s obvious that the collector that bought it considers the piece worth it. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is actual worth that much. There is this thing called buying blue sky that some Japanese collectors got caught up in for example. Another example is the housing market in many countries.

  6. But it’s impossible to say what something is “actually worth” because there is no universal right to this.

    Like there is no way to say that something is “truly beautiful”, because we all perceive that differently.

    So one can just discuss the side affects of the price, not really if it’s worth that much or not. Unless from your own perspective. What you would buy it for.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Universal rights have nothing to do with the actual value. That is dictated by market forces. Simple economics.

    Comparing ‘truly beautiful’ and econmic value of tangible goods is like comparing apples to oranges.

  8. Seemingly open auctions, according to experts including auctioneers, are often rigged to produce prices that nobody in fact pays to another person or entity.
    With private sales and exchanges the secrecy is usually absolute as to who paid what to whom for what. With four Klimts remaining to be sold, I have serious doubts as to how much actually changed hands. For this Pollock, with other Pollocks in private hands waiting the right time to see, I would believe the price when I see the gold moving from one bin to another in some repository.
    Don’t get me wrong. On the next few days when I visit Christies and Sothebys to check out what is being sold in their Impressionist and Modern Art auctions, I will be asking myself, which of these is going to get the 95 million bid this time. Will they break 100 million. It changes nothing in the auctions since i will not be buying but it does add that extra spice to the event though it adds nothing to the pleasuring (or displeasure) of seeing the pictures.


  9. small editiorial revision:or “this Pollock, with other Pollocks in private hands waiting the right time to see, I would believe the price when I see the gold” should read, waiting the right time to sell….d


  10. I don’t agree anonymous, it’s a philosophical thought, and doesn’t have much to do with economics or it’s laws.

    But in any case, paintings going for prices like these are probably bought as an investment. I would almost dare to remove probably too. It’s an object, a name, something to flash.

    Which feels so very very wrong.

  11. Anonymous says:

    My,my Nathalie but you have so much to learn. When you are a little older you might begin to understand the differences.

  12. I suppose one of the dangers for the lay public is in seeing the dollar signs not the painting. In a way, it is what GBS meant by not wanting to become a “classic” that students have to read. My guess is that some who came to see THE KLIMT went away disappointed because no actual painting is going to look like (the supposed) 130 million dollars.

  13. Anonymous: If you run out of arguments or you’re just one of those people that can’t agree to disagree, try letting it go instead. It really leaves you looking better than the alternative of trying to push me down, does.

  14. Irv,

    That’s a good point…

  15. Whatever!!! I still think Jackson Pollock couldn’t paint… vomit can look better sometimes

  16. It’s an investment but not a very good one. One day some clever dick will question it’s authenticity or it’s artistic importance and the thing will become unsaleable. In any case the insurance and security costs will be constant and any eventual sale will attract a heafty slice of commission from the auction house. I advise all my multimillionair friends to put their spare cash into land and then to grow tulips… tulips are definatly the next big thing.

  17. Enjoying art should be free. Creating, showing, and viewing art is a human desire. Art investment is a business activity. Free art is emerging throughout the Internet. How will that will be acquired for investment?

  18. Natahlie: you pose a weak arguement. If you mean to relate your statement to philosophy then support it with some well structured thought and/or examples to illustrate what you want to say.

    Your statement: “But it’s impossible to say what something is “actually worth” because there is no universal right to this” lacks any support i.e. it’s meaningless as it stands.

  19. I did have a modest thought while enjoying myself at both Christies and Sotheby’s exhibitions for their Impressionist and Modern auctions. For reasons that were so significant that they have entirely disappeared from my mind, while we were both, in our separate viewing worlds, looking approvingly at a Vuillard, the guy next to me started a conversation which included the question, Who do you think is the best artist of the 20th Century? Almost without pause I replied that I could not say nor can anyone else since art history shows many instances of the most respected in one period being forgotten in a later period (or, to use the famous old phrase, relegated to the dustbin of history); conversely,there are those respected but not sufficiently to prevent bankruptcy (as was true of Vermeer) only being “discovered” a century or more later by some critic with the power to start the steamroller which made him “great”. For myself, I added, quite truthfully, though I am not sure that truthfulness is owed to a passing stranger over a complex matter, I try never to use the word great or think the word great and, most certainly, not who is the best (the greatest) in any particular period. I am more interested in what each has to offer and, in that, there is a uniqueness each skilled craftsman (or craftsperson, if you prefer)possesses which makes them basically non-comparable. While I accept the statement of one accomplished American artist of his day, that what was so impressive about Picasso was how many things he did, and did well, it is still true that he did not do what his friend Modigliani did as well as M did it, nor, as he granted himself, he did not use color, good as he was when he tried (as in the woman looking at herself in a mirror which is quite superb) as did his friend/competitor Matisse.
    However,as I continued walking around, glancing every now and then at the modest index card next to each picture which stated the range of expected bids, one incontestable answer did arise from the obvious conversion of artwork into a commodity, that, as in most such entitities, the non-comparable have been transformed into the comparable because of one of the most powerful tools of civilization ever created, money. What else could allow for the exchange of land for paintings, of helping make automobiles into food to eat and housing to live in. That portability of purchasing power, that translation of all goods and services into a single quantifiable entity is what drove barter out of its age old dominance.
    Look at how easy that makes the task of judging who is the greatest artist of our time, it is the wealthiest (Picasso’s estate as of now), or as to pictures, it is possibly Klimt or Pollock, if rumored prices are to be trusted, or Picasso if auction prices are to be the measure.
    There are other objective techniques, of course, but most depend upon a less quanitatively precise measure (as is one accepted and methodologically possible technique impact on other significant artists).
    At any rate, should I be given the capital with which to make such an investment, and if I were given a 20 year period in which to be tested for my ability to show the greatest gain for the entire period, I would put the money into the very best Picassos as compared to the very best Pollocks. If the period were a century, I might not put the money into either.


  20. Gary Hopkins says:

    Far as i know only one— Picasso has turned up in Eastern Canada–BOY with Horse,up in valley a Rembrandt turned up a few years ago.

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