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Washington Billionaire Mitchell Rales Sells Painting for $58.3 Million

“No. 19, 1948” by Jackson Pollock was the most expensive item sold at Christie’s Wednesday night.

Looking for a clue that the recession might be over? A sale of contemporary and postwar art at Christie’s last night raised $495 million for various sellers, including $58.3 million going to Washington billionaire and art collector Mitchell Rales for the purchase of his “No. 19, 1948” by Jackson Pollock.

The auction, said art dealer Larry Gagosian to the New York Times, “shows how broad the market is—as in deep pockets.” Rales’s drip painting, bought by an anonymous bidder, has an interesting background: It was sold to him by François Pinault, the French art collector and fashion magnate, who in turn bought it for a meager $2.4 million 20 years ago.

Rales, who was long notorious for shunning the spotlight, made the news in 2012 when he announced plans to build an expanded art museum the size of the National Gallery’s East Building near his Potomac home in order to showcase his collection. The founder of manufacturing and technology company Danaher Corp reportedly snapped up a number of masterpieces by Pollock, Mark Rothko, Yves Klein, and other abstract expressionists in the 1990s when prices were low after the market crashed, according to a New York Times profile from earlier this year.

Forbes estimates Rales’s net worth at $3.7 billion, so the sale of “No. 19, 1948” won’t necessarily be lifestyle-altering. But it will account for almost half of the $125 million Rales and his wife, Emily, are investing in the expansion of their appointment-only gallery, Glenstone.

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