Two Jackson Pollock Paintings Damaged in Corral Canyon Fire
BY ANNE SOBLE
What could potentially may be one of the major art losses in years was made public this week when it was announced that two Jackson Pollock paintings owned by Malibu art collector Gene Ewing were seriously damaged in last November’s Corral Canyon wildfire.
According to an announcement by her attorneys, Ewing purchased the paintings—“Drips on White” and “Drips on Black”—in 1952 for $800 each when she was an “18-year-old art student with an inheritance.” She reportedly spotted the Pollock works at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City and “knew she had to have them.”
Ewing is quoted as saying it “took her at least 20 more trips to get up the nerve to make the purchase, since $800 was a lot of money in those days.” She says she still has the original receipt from the transaction. Ewing also had the paintings analyzed and authenticated by an expert several years ago.
The paintings were reportedly never shown in a museum or gallery. They, along with several other valuable artworks and most of Ewing’s possessions, were subjected to the full force of the post-Thanksgiving Day firestorm.
The announcement holds out hope that some restoration of the two Pollocks is possible, indicating that “nearly one-third of each painting was completely destroyed, and the rest of the paintings were damaged by the heat and soot.”
The paintings were not insured because the premiums would reportedly “have been millions of dollars a year.” Ewing says she wants “people to know that there were more than houses lost in the Corral Canyon fire, there were valuable and sentimental works of art that will never be replaced.”
Ewing is one of the property owners who have filed a claim against the State Parks Department (on whose land the fire was started) through attorneys Devitt & Chelberg for $350 million dollars.
She is also among those seeking a court order requiring installation of a gate to close off access to the notorious mountain partying spot where illegal bonfires are often built.
Ewing, who formerly headed a clothing empire named after her, recently survived a major battle with cancer. She says she is now ready to return to the front line on behalf of wildfire prevention, adding, “They say you can’t beat City Hall, but if I beat cancer, I can sure as hell try.”
MAJOR LOSS—Shown photographed in a former setting, Jackson Pollock’s “Drips on Black” and “Drips on White” were severely damaged in the Corral Canyon wildfire last Nov. 23. The owner of the burned paintings is exploring the possibility of restoring them with atomic oxygen restoration techniques and other technology. The extent of the damage to “Drips on Black” is evident in a recent photo of that artwork.