Jackson Pollock's abstract expressionist artworks are among the world's most expensive. Learn about his legendary ‘drip painting’ technique and why his iconic paintings like Number 5, Number 17A, and Mural have all sold for millions of dollars.
Updated Apr 12, 2023
Many companies on MoneyMade advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and in-depth research determine where and how companies may appear.
Jackson Pollock, the renowned American abstract expressionist painter, is one of the most influential figures of the mid-20th century. His iconic “drip painting” technique, made famous by his use of liquid household paint, is still widely replicated and experimented with today.
His works have been sold for up to an astonishing $200 million, placing them among the most expensive pieces in the modern art market.
Pollock had a prodigious artistic talent right from the start of his career. After attending Manual Arts High School, studying under Thomas Hart Benton, enrolling at the Art Students League, and visiting the Museum of Modern Art, Pollock developed his unique style, heavily influenced by Mexican muralists and Native American culture.
In 1941, Pollock moved to East Hampton, New York with his lover and fellow artist, Lee Krasner. It was here that Pollock abruptly abandoned his figurative elements and began to experiment with action painting.
Pollock’s fame in the art world was undeniable. He held his own large-scale retrospective exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe and was even declared "the greatest living painter" at a memorial retrospective exhibition in the San Diego Museum of Art in 1951.
Sadly, Pollock died in a car crash in 1956. His works have been sold in over 800 auctions in the past 30 years—his legacy lives forever.
Jackson Pollock was an American abstract expressionist painter who made history with his "drip" technique—earning him the nickname 'Jack the Dripper'. On January 28th, 1912, the fifth and youngest son of Stella May McClure and LeRoy Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming.
By age 16, Jackson had relocated to New York City and enrolled at the Art Students League, where he learned about life drawing, painting, and composition from regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton.
In the fall of 1935, Jackson Pollock was ready to take the art world by storm. With his job at the WPA Federal Art Project, he was able to express his artistic genius, creating masterpieces such as Number One and The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle, which would eventually earn him worldwide acclaim and make him one of the most iconic abstract expressionist painters of all time.
Jackson Pollock’s ‘The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle’ (1943) oil on canvas.
Four years later, he married fellow artist Lee Krasner and the two relocated to East Hampton, New York. It was there, in 1947, that Jackson revolutionized the art world with his 'drip' or ‘action’ painting technique that involved splashing liquid household paint on raw unstretched canvas laid out on the floor.
Jackson Pollock's works went on to be showcased in renowned galleries and institutions around the world and have sold for over a hundred million dollars in the past. Even those who know nothing about art can recite his name on command. Pollock’s legacy lives on, and his bold, vibrant works continue to remind us of his incredible talent and innovation.
Jackson Pollock's drip paintings have stamped his place in the art world as a pioneering abstract expressionist. His works have sold for some of the highest prices ever recorded for paintings, with his masterpiece Number 5 1948, selling for an astounding $140 million at Christie's in 2006.
Since then, some other Pollock pieces have sold for over $10 million each, with the Number 17A being the first to break the $150 million mark at auction. His final painting, The Deep, is estimated to be worth $27.7 million. The value of Jackson Pollock's art isn't just based on monetary terms. It reflects the triumphs and values of America and has become an undeniable part of art history.
His influence over the Abstract Expressionist movement and other artists has helped to perpetuate the value of his work. Additionally, the tragic car accident that ended his life has sparked a novel-like mythology around the artist that has further driven demand for authentic Pollock pieces.
Jackson Pollock's art is highly sought after for its rarity, its originality, and its ability to capture the spirit of Americanism. It's the perfect blend of art and history, each piece unique and valuable in its own right. It's no wonder why his works have consistently sold for some of the highest prices ever recorded for paintings.
Pollock’s iconic paintings, produced in the late 1940s, can be found in permanent collections at renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery, and many others.
Pollock's most famous pieces, such as Blue Pole, Number 17A, Number 5, The Mural, Number 31, and Number 19, have gone down in history as some of the most expensive modern art pieces of all time. These one-of-a-kind works are a unique representation of the American expressionist movement. It's no wonder that Pollock's works are highly sought-after and admired by art enthusiasts worldwide.
If you're looking to add a little excitement to your art collection, you can't go wrong with one of Pollock's masterpieces. Of course, this remarkable success would never have been achieved without the genius of Paul Jackson Pollock himself. Let’s now dig into seven of his most expensive and iconic drip paintings.
Blue Poles 1952 is Jackson Pollock’s most expensive painting. Ben Heller made a real bargain when he purchased Blue Poles (also known as Number 11) in the 1950s for just $32,000. Little did he know, this huge painting was going to be worth up to $350 million today after the Gough Whitlam government of Australia purchased it for a mere $2 million in 1973 (around $10.7 million in todays money).
‘Blue Poles’ painting, sold for $32,000 in 1952, is now worth up to 300 times its initial price.
Now, this wild masterpiece is on display at the National Gallery of Australia, where visitors can marvel at its stunning rainbow of colors and the very unexpected footprint in the top right corner.
Tommy Hart Benton trained the iconic abstract expressionist, Jackson Pollock, at the Art Students League in New York and Manual Arts High School. After his training, Pollock abruptly shifted gears and created 12/1–2, a remarkable painting featuring a rainbow of colors such as green, blue, red, and silver, along with a mischievous footprint in the top right corner.
Legend has it that Pollock and his buddy Tony Smith concocted this masterpiece with liquid household paint, broken glass, and a few shots of liquid courage. This wild and unique creation continues to be celebrated in renowned museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art, and its high price value is a testament to its greatness.
The Number 17A 1948, featuring Pollock's signature drip technique, measures 112 by 86 centimeters and is made from oil paint on fiberboard. It's no surprise that this vibrant piece of art is so highly valued, considering its energy-filled combination of shapes and colors.
‘Number 17A’ sold for $200 million in a private deal.
This famous drip painting is made with oil paint on a fiberboard. And it has a complex combination of colors and shapes that create a strong sense of energy and movement. Little wonder why The David Geffen Foundation and Kenneth Griffin paid an eye-watering $200 million to take home this Jackson Pollock masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism.
Jackson Pollock's Number 5 is an 8-by-4-foot oil-on-fiberboard painting that sold for $140 million in 2006. Pollock’s work features a bird-nest-like chaos with black, white, grey, red, and yellow layers that interweave and cover the entire surface area. The movement is constant, pooling in larger spots and exploding in multiple directions simultaneously. It also displays mathematical precision in its angles and implied motions.
Jackson Pollock's ‘Number 5’ sold for $140 million in 2006.
After the painting was initially moved, Pollock repaired and repainted the piece, creating a second equally admired version. The painting, with its confident statement of the possibilities of abstract art, has been praised for its aesthetic appearance and stunning look.
The University of Iowa Museum of Art in Iowa City purchased the Jackson Pollock painting Mural for $61.2 million in an auction held by Sotheby's in 2021. This painting features an 8-by-20-foot-wide mural with bold, colorful brush strokes and splashes of paint.
‘Mural 1943’ is on display at the Iowa University Museum of Art and is currently valued at $140 million.
The painting’s acquisition has sparked debate in the art world over its future home, with many speculating that the painting's high appraisal could make it a good investment.
Jackson Pollock's painting, Number 31,1949, was estimated to fetch more than $45 million when it went on auction at Christie's 20th Century Evening Sale in 2022. With its 8-foot by 4-foot canvas size, the painting showcases Pollock's renowned "drip painting" process, in which he poured paint directly from a can onto the canvas, set it down horizontally on the floor, and sometimes used a stick to push and blend pigments.
‘Number 31’ is expected to fetch up to $45 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
Source: cloud front.net
This painting has remained in a private collection for over 20 years, and its inclusion in two major Pollock retrospectives: the 1967 Pollock retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the 1998 retrospective at MoMA and the Tate Modern in London underlines its rarity.
The painting sold at auction for $3.5 million in 1988. Its estimated market value has gained considerable attention from art historians, critics, and collectors.
Pollock painted this masterpiece in 1951. An anonymous bidder paid over $58 million at a Christie's Contemporary Art sale in May 2013 for Jackson Pollock's Number 19 1948 painting. Measuring 78.4 x 57.4 cm, the oil and enamel on paper mounted on canvas painting are one of the most expensive pieces ever sold at auction, far exceeding its estimated value of $25 million to $35 million.
Number 19 showcased the iconic artist's signature 'drip' style, which he developed between 1947 and 1950 and is widely regarded as one of his most successful works. The painting first changed hands in Paris in May 1993 at a Christie's auction.
‘Number 19’ changed hands for $58 million at Christie's Contemporary Art sale in May 2013.
The painting’s sale marks a significant moment in history and the increasing value of modern art over the years. It is estimated that the painting increased in value by over 200% since its 2013 sale. The painting is undoubtedly among the most valuable pieces in modern art history, and it’s a testament to Jackson Pollock’s lasting legacy.
‘Red Composition’ closed at $12 million at a Christie’s auction in October 2020.
Peggy Guggenheim originally owned Jackson Pollock's Red Composition. On October 7, 2020, it was sold for $13 million (including a $1 million premium) at Christie's, which valued the painting at between $12 and $18 million. The painting was initially donated to the Everson Museum of Art in 1991, where it was appraised at $800,000. Described as a "masterpiece that revolutionized 20th-century art, Red Composition is a benchmark for the artist's prolific works.
When investing in artworks, such as Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles, it’s important to be selective and understand the market. Researching the artist, their style, and the availability of the artwork is essential before making an investment.
Additionally, understanding the current market value and its potential for appreciation, as well as the costs associated with the artwork—such as framing and restoration, is integral.
It’s also important to use reliable sources of information like reputable art galleries, auction houses, and independent valuers. Conducting research online is crucial to making an informed decision.
Keep in mind that investing in an artwork is a high-risk endeavor. For example, May 2013’s auction at Sotheby's and Christie's saw over $1 billion worth of artworks go on sale. However, over a fifth of the lots didn’t sell and many investors failed to realize a high return on their investment.
The average annual compound return on these works was 10.4%, however, this does not include other costs such as auction fees, storage, and capital gains tax. Investors who had spent over $1 million on their artworks received a lower return of 7.1%, as opposed to 10.9% for those costing less than $1 million.
Investing in artwork can still be a great way to diversify your portfolio and generate value over the long term. For instance, Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles—purchased for over $1.3 million in 1973, and now valued at over $350 million—demonstrates the potential of investing in artworks.
Therefore, by researching the artwork and its potential for price appreciation, you can make informed decisions on whether to include an artwork in your investment portfolio.
Invest in Financial Innovation