Pollock's 'No. 5, 1948' Commands Record Price for a Painting ; THE ART MARKET

Article excerpt

When Jackson Pollock, the troubled and alcoholic American painter, dribbled paint on to a bare board laid on the floor of his Long Island studio nearly 60 years ago, he may or may not have wondered what kind of money might one day be paid for it. If he did, he surely never would have dreamed in millions.

Now we know that the natural insecurity of the artist was gravely, even navely, misplaced. Fast forward to yesterday when news emerged that one of the largest paintings Pollock completed - unromantically entitled No. 5, 1948 - has quietly changed hands for no less a sum than $140m ([pound]73.35m).

The person alleged to have offloaded the picture, which measures 4ft by 8ft (1.2 by 2.4m), is David Geffen, a Los Angeles entertainment tycoon. Meanwhile, the price he charged - if the transaction is confirmed - would make it the most money ever paid for a painting, exceeding the $134m paid recently by the cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder for Gustav Klimt's shimmering Adele Bloch-Bauer I.

While the public was able to view the Klimt painting, which Lauder bought to hang in his own, public, Neue Galerie on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue opposite the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is most unlikely that any of us will be given equal access to the large Pollock.

The buyer, according to The New York Times, was David Martinez, a Mexican best known for keeping his private affairs, and presumably private possessions also, all to himself.

We do know, however, that Mr Martinez, 48, the founder of London- based Fintech Advisory Ltd, a financial house that specialis-es in buying Third World debt and which has a New York branch, has long been an avid art collector. Most of it ends up on the walls of the super-luxury apartment he bought in Manhattan's soaring Time Warner Centre for $54.7m two years ago. Guests at Mr Martinez's apartment, on the 76th floor of one of the centre's blue-glassed towers, which he bought as a raw space when they were completed on Columbus Circle, will at first be struck by the 360-degree views over Manhattan and Central Park. Then, however, their eyes will surely settle on the art collection, which already includes works by Rothko and De Kooning, among others. But with 12,000 square feet of floor space, he presumably has free walls for his new Pollock too.

What the reclusive Mr Martinez seems to have acquired this week is a classic among Pollock's drip paintings, a thicket of yellow, white, maroon and black squiggles chaotically unleashed on to a sheet of fibreboard. Scholars of Pollock, who died in 1956 in a car crash, acknowledge the continuity of his drip-painting theme, but point to a wild diversity in his work also, with surfaces that ranged from powdery, to glass-smooth and encrusted. …