Art: Thumbs Under the Hammer

Gentle, high-minded and peaceable stands the artist at his easel, mind, heart and soul intent on creation. Shrewd, suspicious and materialistic stands the artist in the marketplace, protecting his interests with a zeal that would make a pawnbroker blush. The most meaningful U.S. marketplace is the auction room at Parke-Bernet Galleries in Manhattan; and when Parke-Bernet announced for last week an end-of-season clearance sale of modern masters that promised to set prices, the art world got alert.

The loudest fury raged around three paintings presented as works of Jackson Pollock. The Van Gogh...

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