A previously unknown painting by Jackson Pollock, worth upwards of $54 million, has been found during a raid on alleged international art smugglers. The painting turned up in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia during an operation targeting an organized criminal group known to operate across Greece, per Art News. Five additional paintings by "prominent artists" were discovered during parallel raids carried out in Athens and on the island of Crete, Bulgarian National Radio reports.
It was an "international operation with the participation of Europol, Greece, and other countries," said Petar Todorov, Bulgaria’s chief secretary of the ministry of internal affairs, per Reuters. "To our great joy, we managed to establish and keep this [Pollock] painting and at the moment the expertise shows that it is an original." The painting, now in the hands of specialists from Bulgaria's National Art Gallery, reportedly includes the artist's signature and a 25th birthday message to the American actress and art collector Lauren Bacall on the back.
"Dedicated to my very talented and dear friend Lauren Bacall, Happy Birthday," reads the inscription dated Sept. 16, 1949, per Art Newspaper. "A preliminary examination suggests it is an original uncatalogued work by the seminal American Abstract Expressionist from 1949," per Art News. Pollock, known for his paint pouring and dripping techniques, died in 1956 at age 44, "leaving behind a short number of known works," per the outlet. Three Greek citizens and one Bulgarian have been arrested, according to the reports. (Read more Jackson Pollock stories.)