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backstory50: Dismantling the “Van Gogh Effect”

This is a story best told by Roy R. Neuberger in his own words (excerpted from The Passionate Collector):

When Peggy Guggenheim returned to Europe after the war, she closed her gallery, Art of This Century. She had a lot of trouble finding another gallery for Jackson Pollock because of his reputation as a heavy drinker. Betty Parsons was finally persuaded to represent him.

Betty was an artist herself, briefly married to an artist, and among the best of the early dealers. She and Edith Halpert presided over galleries showing the work of living American artists much earlier than most dealers. Betty’s artists were devoted to her.

Because I liked Betty and respected her judgement, I went to the November 1949 opening of the Jackson Pollock show at her gallery. The previous summer, Life magazine had run an article about Pollock that asked, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” The article evoked considerable interest and debate, which was reflected in the huge turnout. I liked what I saw that evening and told Betty that I did.

A few days later, she called me. I remember the words: “Roy, you know that painting you liked in the Jackson Pollock show? Would you entertain buying it? He needs money desperately.”

“Yes,” I said and I sent off the check in advance of getting the painting so Pollock would have the money right away.”


I’m not going to tell you how much he paid. Come to the Museum tonight for the official opening of The Making of a Museum: 50 Years show to see how much. The answer is in the label text adjacent to Pollock’s painting in the Klein Gallery.

Tracy Fitzpatrick
Director, Neuberger Museum of Art

Orange square with a white border and large numbers 50 with small letters neu overlapping the top of the 5 and the word Years beneath

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