To say Bulgarian officials found a lost Jackson Pollock painting during a raid on an art-trafficking ring wouldn’t be exactly accurate—you have to know something exists to consider it missing. However, in an even more dramatic fashion, they did discover a never-before-seen, previously undisclosed work from the abstract expressionist while busting an illegal business, reports Artforum.
According to the publication, which sites Bulgarian National Radio as the first to break the news, Bulgarian officials worked with a Greek anti-crime unit to bust the trafficking ring, which extended from Bulgaria to Athens and Crete. While the Greek outfit found a collection of paintings by famous artists during the raid (the exact creators weren’t disclosed), their Bulgarian counterparts discovered a canvas bearing Pollock’s faint signature. Police sent sent the work to Bulgaria’s National Art Gallery, who authenticated the piece. The Bulgarian experts say the work dates to 1949 and is an uncatalogued original, estimated to be worth €50 million ($54 million) at auction.
“This is an international operation with the participation of Europol, Greece, and other countries,” Petar Todorov, Bulgaria’s Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said on Bulgarian National Television, according to local publication Novinite. “To our great joy, we managed to establish and keep this painting, and at the moment, the expertise shows that it is an original.”
While officials didn’t disclose any details about the painting’s appearance, it likely features Pollock’s “drip style,” for which the artist gained critical recognition in the late ’40s. In this prominent technique he used between 1947–1950, Pollock utilized sticks, knives, towels, and other objects to splatter paint on canvas. When he died in a car accident in 1956, the visionary only left behind a small body of work, making the discovery of another Jackson Pollock painting that much more captivating. According to Mutual Art, the Pollock’s paintings have ranged in price when offered at auction, selling for as little as $15 and as much as $61,161,000—this high end was set in 2021 when his painting Number 17 sold for this record price at Sotheby’s New York.