Monday, November 17, 2014

Elvis has entered the building

When the first director of the Australian National Gallery James Mollison purchased Jackson Pollock’s Blue poles all hell broke loose. One of the newspapers headlined with 'Barefoot drunks painted our $1 million masterpiece'.  One reason for the uproar was the painting’s price of $A1.3 million. Once a work was over the million mark it required Government approval and in this case the PM Gough Whitlam (a staunch Mollison supporter) told the ANG director, "Buy it and disclose the price."

Another of Mollison's spectacular purchases was Elvis a 1963 silkscreen by Andy Warhol. This cost the Gallery just $25,000, didn’t need ticking off, and slipped into the collection virtually unheralded the same year as the Pollock uproar. Many of Mollison's purchases have been vindicated by the market many times but he must have laughed last week when an Elvis painting from the same series as the ANG’s one sold for $A93.6 million at Christie's. This was a world record for Warhol. OK there were three Elvises in this one but it’s still $31.2 mill an Elvis however you look at it.