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Attic Discovery: $30M in Artwork


By Jill M. Speegle

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When the two investors bought the run-down cottage in Bellport, NY, for $300,000, their plan was to flip the home for a profit.

Little did they know that thousands of pieces of rare artwork (recently appraised at $30 million) sat in a pile of dust, mildew and vermin in the attic and garage.

When they made the find, Thomas Schultz and Larry Joseph decided not to flip the home. But they did profit.

Schultz and Joseph reportedly have spent years unrolling moldy canvases, ultimately discovering more than 70,000 paintings, drawings and journals by Arthur Pinajian (1914-1999), who once owned the cottage.

Pinajian is described as an “obscure Armenian-American abstract impressionist.” Art historian William Innes Homer recently called Pinajian’s abstractions among the best of his era, reports relate.

Relatives: Throw it Away

Unfortunately for the artist and lucky for Schultz and Joseph, Pinajian wasn’t recognized for his contribution to the art world during his lifetime. A 2007 New York Times article reported that a Google search for the artist’s name and “artist” produced no relevant results.

The artist’s work might not have meant much to his relatives, either. When the investors advised them that the art had been left in the home, they told him to throw it away, Schultz told a local CBS affiliate.

According to one report, the investors paid the family $2,500 for the art purely “out of sympathy.”

“I didn’t want to be the person responsible for throwing a man’s life’s work into a dumpster,” Schultz told CBS New York.

Living in the house for decades, Pinajian was said to have devoted himself to his art, painting every day for 50 years. His work included abstract expressionist paintings, comic book illustrations, and other sketches. His comic book illustrations are considered collectibles as he worked for Marvel in the 1930s.

Just Google his name now.

Paintings Valued at $30M

The lot was appraised at $30 million, although it will take several decades to sell it all. Schultz and Joseph are off to a good start, I’d say, as buyers across the country are emerging and the artist’s reputation is growing. Some of the pieces have sold for $500,000 a pop, reports said.

In addition, 50 of Pinajian’s best works are on display in the Fuller Building in New York City. Schultz has said the artist dreamed of his paintings being in the building.

“The artist was in the Fuller Building in the 1950s when he was visiting an exhibition of [Willem] de Kooning’s work,” he told CBS. “He talked about how he thought his works were better than de Kooning.”

Maybe he was right. But, for now, this is one discovery rocking the art community the world around.

Don’t know about you, but I’m left with a sudden urge to go to some garage sales.


Jill M. Speegle

Jill Speegle is the Editor of Durability + Design News. She earned her B.A. in journalism and English as well as her J.D. from the University of Arkansas. In Sketches, Jill shares her thoughts on a number of topics that may be of interest to the D+D community, including architecture, interior design, green building, historic restoration, and whatever else catches her radar.



Tagged categories: Artists; Design; Historic Preservation; Interior design; Painters; Trends

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