Controversial Pollock for sale in Toronto

A Jackson Pollock painting, bought for $5 in a thrift store, is for sale at a Toronto gallery with an asking price of $50 million US.

A Jackson Pollock painting, bought for $5 in a thrift store, is for sale at a Toronto gallery with an asking price of $50 million US.

The painting, made famous by the 2006 PBS documentary, Who the #$%& is Jackson Pollock, is being exhibited for the first time at Gallery Delisle in east Toronto from Nov. 13-27.

Teri Horton, a 76-year-old retired truck driver, bought the painting in 1992 as a gag gift, not knowing who the painter was at the time. Since the painting, nicknamed Teri's Find, was authenticated forensically she has refused all American offers and sent it to Canada to find a foreign buyer.

The painting is a 1.7-by-1.2 metres canvas with red, yellow, grey and blue paint dripped on it.

When American auction houses denied Horton visual authentication of the painting, she turned to science for validation.

"I've been through this with the U.S.A. market and they turn their back on forensic science and they won't take a stand for the painting," Horton told CBC News on Tuesday from her mobile home in Costa Mesa, Calif.

"They don’t deserve to have it. I want an international buyer to have it because of that," said Horton.

Since receiving forensic authentication, Horton has received and refused offers from American buyers that she describes as unfair.

In 2006, one of Pollock's works sold for about $140 million, the highest sum ever to be paid for a painting. Horton's painting was valued at $50 million by experts in the documentary.

Horton says she would not reject a higher bid from an American buyer over a foreign one. "I'm not that stupid … but I would much prefer that another country have it," said Horton.

Gallery owner Michelle Delisle was brainstorming ideas for an opening event for her six-month-old gallery and approached Horton in late September "as a shot in the dark."

After talking on the phone, Delisle flew Horton to Toronto in early October to see the gallery and discuss terms. The contract for the gallery to exhibit and sell the painting was signed on Oct. 17.

"It's been a whirlwind," said Delisle.

Both Horton and Delisle say they are unconcerned about being able to sell the painting during the current economic recession.

"That's one market that hasn't fallen yet. Everything else has fallen to pot," said Horton.

After the painting was dismissed by major auction houses, Horton turned to Paul Biro, a Montreal forensic expert, to authenticate it. Biro found a fingerprint matching one on an already-authenticated painting and matching paint in Pollock's studio in New York.

Delisle says she believes in the results found by Biro, who authenticated a J.M.W. Turner painting for the Tate Britain.

"If he's good enough for J.M.W. Turner, he's good enough for a Pollock. If the Tate uses him, he's valid in my books," said Delisle.

The Toronto gallery's acceptance of the authentication was the main reason Horton said she wanted the painting sold in Canada, but also so she could stay in the background.

"It's become an albatross around my neck," said Horton. "If I were younger I'd say I'd keep my fight up with it but time's creeping up on me and I've got to take some of these principles and stick it and do what's right for my family and the people I want to help."

The money from the painting sale will go toward a trip to Ireland, Horton's ancestral homeland and toward buying her first new car.

Horton says she has no plans to move out of her California mobile home and instead wants to help families, including two of her sons, who have lost their homes because of the mortgage crisis.

The documentary garnered attention for portraying a truck driver with a Grade 8 education's crusade against the art world.

After a crash course in the art world, Horton, who says she is a fan of Norman Rockwell, still doesn't see the beauty in her Pollock.

"Do I personally think it's worth [$50 million]? Hell no. It's worth the $5 I gave for it. It's ugly."