Possible Jackson Pollock original painting discovered in Bulgaria police raid

Sofia, Bulgaria — Bulgarian authorities said Thursday they were investigating a painting seized by police that could be a little-known work by the American abstract artist Jackson Pollock. Clues indicate the roughly six-foot-tall painting may have been a gift to Hollywood star Lauren Bacall — and could have been held in the extensive private collection of Romania’s former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

The painting was found in an apartment in Sofia in a raid last month carried out in cooperation with the Greek police and overseen by Europol.

It had been held in Greece for several years before being smuggled into Bulgaria, where a painter had intended to sell it further abroad, Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said.

“The most qualified experts in Bulgaria examined the painting and assured us that its authenticity is almost certain,” Demerdzhiev told bTV television, adding the country would seek “additional expertise.”

Pollock's Studio
Abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock moves one of his paintings in his studio in East Hampton, New York, August 23, 1953.

Tony Vaccaro/Hulton Archive/Getty

The work, a vibrant skein dominated by reds and black against a golden backdrop, is not listed in Pollock catalogues but is signed by the artist.

On the back is a handwritten note that reads: “Dedicated to my dear and very talented friend Lauren Bacall, Happy Birthday, September 16, 1949,” according to Sofia City Prosecution spokeswoman Desislava Petrova. Bacall, born on September 16, 1924, was known to be a friend of Pollock’s.

Also on the back is the signature of Ceausescu and a seal indicating it belonged to the dictator toppled in a coup in December 1989, Petrova said.

Experts at the National Gallery in Sofia concluded that its style and execution techniques are consistent with those used by Pollock from 1949 to 1950, as are the paint pigments, Petrova added.

But National Gallery spokeswoman Vesela Radoeva told AFP that they could not vouch for the painting’s authenticity, saying they were not specialized in Pollock’s works.

Greek police and Europol declined to give further details when contacted by AFP.

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Demerdzhiev said Bulgarian authorities would make every effort to keep the painting as property of the state if it is confirmed to be an original.

“The last painting of Pollock was sold for over 100 million euros ($110 million), and I don’t expect this one to cost less,” he said.

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