NEW YORK – An oil painting by Jackson Pollock, “Number 32, 1949,” was sold on Wednesday for $34.1 million at a Sotheby’s contemporary art auction, marking the highest price of the night.
“Number 32, 1949,” one of the artist’s most outstanding drip paintings, was initially expected to fetch between $30 and $40 million, but the bid ended with a lower-than-expected hammer price, which excludes the premiums that the buyer must pay as part of the total purchase price.
The painting, measuring 78.7 by 57.1 centimeters, was considered the highlight of Wednesday night’s auction organized by Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses. The event will conclude on Thursday.
Sotheby’s described the painting, which has remained in the same private collection since 1983, as a “resounding and uncontroversial” masterpiece of abstract expressionism and shows the chromatic richness of Pollock, who died in a car accident at the age of 44 while driving intoxicated.
Following Pollock’s “Number 32, 1949” was an oil painting by Brooklyn native painter Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) called “Flesh and Spirit,” which sold for $30.7 million.
This price is far from the $110.5 million fetched by another Basquiat piece, “Untitled,” in an auction on May 18, 2017, which set a new record high not only for the painter himself, but also for any American artist at an art auction.
Basquiat, a poet, musician, and graffiti artist with a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, had a short-lived career as he died at 27 of heroin overdose after years of complicated life struggles.