No. 5, 1948

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No. 5, 1948
ArtistJackson Pollock
TypeOil on fiberboard
Dimensions2.4 m × 1.2 m (8 ft × 4 ft)
LocationPrivate collection, New York

No. 5, 1948 is a 1948 painting by Jackson Pollock, an American painter known for his contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. It was sold on 22 May 2006 for $140 million, a new mark for highest ever price for a painting, not surpassed until April 2011.


The painting was created on fibreboard, also known as composition board, measuring 8’ x 4’. For the paint, Pollock chose to use liquid paints.[1] More specifically, they were synthetic resin paints (gloss enamel)[2] but are referred to as oil paints for classification of the work. On inspection it was grey, brown, white and yellow paint drizzled in a way that many people still perceive as a "dense bird’s nest".[3] Initial reactions to the work were underwhelming:

"You spent money on 'that'?" The initial reaction of Ted Dragon, Ossorio's partner.[4]

Damage and rework[edit]

The painting was modified by Pollock after it was originally created. During January 1949, it was being shown in a solo Pollock show at the Betty Parsons gallery. It was from here that Alfonso A. Ossorio decided to purchase a "paint drip" composition; he chose No. 5, 1948 and paid $1,500. It was the only canvas sold from the show.[4] At some point, presumably during the moving process, the painting became damaged, according to Grace Hartigan.[5] "Home Sweet Home [the shipping company] came in with a painting in one hand and a lump of paint from the center of the painting in the other hand." Hartigan gave Pollock some paint and he patched the painting before it went to Ossorio, saying "He’ll never know, never know." When the painting was subsequently delivered to Ossorio, he claimed that he noticed "a portion of the paint - actually the skin from the top of an opened paint can - had slid"[6] leaving a "nondescript smear amidst the surrounding linear clarity," as he explained in a 1978 lecture at Yale. Pollock offered to rework the painting but, according to Hartigan, he "repainted the whole thing again" and stated that "He'll never know. No one knows how to look at my paintings, he won’t know the difference." After three weeks, Ossorio visited Pollock's studio to inspect the painting. Ossorio was confronted with an artwork which was repainted onto fiberboard, with "new qualities of richness and depth" as a result of Pollock's "thorough but subtle repainting." It was clear that Ossorio still liked the painting despite the rework, and continued to attest that the "original concept remained unmistakably present, but affirmed and fulfilled by a new complexity and depth of linear interplay. It was, and still is a masterful display of control and disciplined vision." Pollock repaired the damage to the painting by completely repainting the original, in contrast to how other artworks are repaired. The reconstruction had not only retained but reinforced the metaphysical concept of the painting, and has become what Ossorio calls "a wonderful example of an artist having a second chance".


According to a report in The New York Times on November 2, 2006, the painting was sold by David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of DreamWorks SKG, to David Martinez, managing partner of Fintech Advisory Ltd, in a private sale for a record inflation-adjusted price of $140 million.[7] It is speculated that Geffen sold the painting, along with two others, to raise enough funds to bid for the Los Angeles Times. The sale was reportedly brokered by Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer,[8] however, the law firm of Shearman & Sterling, LLP, issued a press release on behalf of its client, David Martinez, to announce that contrary to recent articles in the press, Martinez did not own the painting or any rights to acquire it.[9] In addition to the refutation issued by Shearman & Sterling, the auction expert Josh Baer indicated that Martinez was not the buyer of the painting.[10]

Popular references[edit]

The lyrics of The Stone Roses song "Going Down" include a reference to the painting: "(There) she looks like a painting - Jackson Pollock's Number 5..." The Stone Roses' guitarist John Squire created cover artwork for many of the band's releases on Silvertone Records in a style similar to that of Jackson Pollock.

The painting played a central role in the film Ex Machina (2015), in which billionaire tech firm CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) owns the painting and uses it as an object lesson for the protagonist Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), noting that No. 5, 1948 would never have come into existence if Jackson Pollock only painted what he already knew. This is contrasted to the way an AI comes to know, thus emphasizing the problem of consciousness and epistemology.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Intricate Style in No. 5 Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  2. ^ "What Paint Did Pollock Use?" Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  3. ^ Jackson Pollock's No.5, 1948 - More than a Dense Birds Nest Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b Steven Gaines (June 1, 1998). Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons (hardcover). Little Brown & Co. p. 115. ISBN 9780316309417. You spent money on 'that'?
  5. ^ Oral history interview with Grace Hartigan, 1979 May 10 Retrieved 31 August 2014
  6. ^ Landmarks Preservation Retrieved 31 August 2014
  7. ^ Vogel, Carol (November 2, 2006). "A Pollock Is Sold, Possibly for a Record Price". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  8. ^ "Pollock work 'earns record price'". BBC News. November 3, 2006.
  9. ^ "The Week in Mexico". San Diego Union-Tribune. November 12, 2006.
  10. ^ "Art Market Watch". Artnet. November 3, 2006. Retrieved November 8, 2006.

External links[edit]