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“Pollocks” Flunk Harvard, Attend Boston College

The matter of the Matter “Pollocks” gets curiouser and curiouser:
The Harvard-based conservation experts who conducted an independent, pro-bono scientific examination of three paintings from the group of 32 works found among the possessions of Jackson Pollock‘s friend, the late Herbert Matter, yesterday issued a 13-page analysis (with images), which reported:
Some pigments raised questions about the proposed date of creation of the three works the research team analyzed (1946-49). The team found red paint on MBJP29 that has only been marketed for a few decades. They found dark orange paint on MBJP14 and red paint on MBJP29 that was not industrially produced before 1953. MBJP14 contained a pigment in the orange paint that was not available until 1971. The brown paint found on MBJP29 was developed in the early 1980s and came onto the market in 1986.
Some media raised similar questions. MBJP09 and MBJP14 contained media that were most likely not available until 1962 or 1963. The binding medium used to create the silver paint on MBJP29 in all likelihood was not commercially available until the 1970s.

In his NY Times article today, Randy Kennedy opined:
The examination of the chemical makeup of the paintings…does not conclusively end the debate over whether Pollock had a hand in the works. But the findings cast doubt on that possibility. And they suggest that at the very least, the paintings…may have been substantially added to or altered after Pollock’s death.
But the report itself casts doubt on the notion that all of the anachronistic materials could have been added to Pollock’s work by a later hand:
Conservation treatment can account for the presence of the clear coating and adhesives found on painting MBJP29, but not the terpolymer medium that binds the pigment to form the paint, or the very modern pigments, which were found in untreated areas. [Emphasis added.]
None of this, according to Geoff Edgers in today’s Boston Globe, has altered Boston College’s plans to mount its “Pollock Matters” show, exhibiting 25 of the disputed works. According to a statement by Nancy Netzer, director of BC’s McMullen Museum:
Our exhibition’s focus is on ‘the state of the question,’ not on the authenticity of the paintings; one of the aims of the exhibition will be to bring together and present to the public all the known (possibly conflicting) evidence concerning the attribution of the newly discovered paintings. We hope that the high-profile discovery of these works generates public interest in this exhibition and encourages further research by other scholars who have not yet seen the works.
“High-profile” is the operative word. Few low-profile museums can resist the temptation of attracting this kind of public attention, least of all the director of Syracuse’s Everson Museum, Sandra Trop, who must have caused Edgers to do a big a doubletake when she gave him one of those priceless quotes that journalists live for. She said her museum would probably sue if its planned “Pollock Matters” exhibition, June 16 to Sept. 2, were scrapped in favor of Boston’s, Sept. 1 to Dec. 9. And then, the clincher: She explained that if her show were canceled, “There’d be a lot of damage for the museum. And they’re not even authentic Pollocks.”
At which point, Edgers must have said to himself:
Did she really just say that?
The official word from the Everson on the purported Pollocks is more even-handed:
There is some difference of opinion among Pollock scholars as to whether or not the works comprising the show were done by Pollock. Regardless of scholars decision on this matter, the show is an excellent educational opportunity to look carefully and compare the works of the show with the authentic Pollock works in the Everson Museum’s permanent collection.
“Educational” or sensational?
UPDATE: Geoff Edgersmost recent post on his Exhibitionist blog includes this link to the statements from the proponents of the Pollock attribution, addressing the doubts raised by the Harvard report.

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