Just watched this fabulous documentary detailing former truck driver Teri Horton’s $5 purchase in a thrift shop of a painting that might be a Jackson Pollock. The film was co-produced by the legendary Don Hewitt of 60 minutes fame, and came to being after a legendary and felonious former art dealer, Ted Volpe, approached the film’s director, Harry Moses, about collaborating on a 10-hour documentary mini-series about corruption in the art world, a subject he said he knew well.
According to the New York Times: “Mr. Moses said he thought the idea was too outlandish and that it would never sell in the American television market. But he was struck by Mr. Volpe’s account of Ms. Horton, especially after learning that she, with the help of a Canadian art restorer named Peter Paul Biro, had found a fingerprint, in paint, on the back of her canvas and that Mr. Biro said he had matched the print to one he found later on a paint can in Pollock’s Long Island studio, now maintained as a museum.”
It’s a great documentary, part detective story, part art-world expose, with compelling character actors. One, Thomas Hogan, a former director and curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, comes across as particularly elitist and full of himself. When asked to inspect the painting he surmised,
“There are a lot of second rate experts in the world. I am not. Now if I had been a night watchman at the Metropolitan Museum of art for ten years, instead of a curator and director for 18 1/2, then you might say that my expertise is not so good. My expertise is very good. . . . My instinctive impression which I always write down was neat dash compacted which is not good. It’s pretty, it’s superficial and frivolous and I don’t believe it’s a Jackson Pollock. It’s dead on arrival.”
Teri, herself, offers some great soundbites on her opinion of the Pollock (which btw, remained in her hands because the friend that she originally purchased it for thought it too ugly and it didn’t fit through the front door of her trailer). After she learned of the prices that Pollocks sell for she said,” “Knowing what it was worth just blew me away. Something so ugly to me . . . that anyone would pay that kind of money for this type of artwork, if you want to call it artwork.”
Well, as Barney Frank said paraphrasing W.C. Fields, “The public is no bargain either.”
All in all, a great amusing, and (for me at least) eye-opening peek of the business of art.
Related reading: Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word