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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

for various sellers, including $58.3 million going to
Washington billionaire and art
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

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.