David Killen a NY art dealer recently bought the contents of an abandoned storage unit in New Jersey for $15,000… but ultimately it my reveals an incredible strike of luck which will turn them up to Millions : inside there may be 6 previously unknown paintings by Willem de Kooning.
David Killen, who runs an eponymous gallery in Chelsea, decided to take a gamble on the art-filled unit after a local auction house turned it down. According to Killen, the unit contained unclaimed works from the studio of deceased art conservator Orrin Riley, who once worked also at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, before going private and died in 1986, and his late partner Susanne Schnitzer, who died in 2009. Over the following 9 years the executors of Schnitzer’s estate unsuccessfully tried to return the leftover artworks to their original owners, and thus the New York’s attorney general ultimately deemed the property abandoned and released the works to be sold.
Killen says he figured the 200 leftover works were mostly “minor works by minor artists.”, and he already planned to use them as “fillers” for the bi-monthly auctions he hosts at his gallery.But his gamble paid off handsomely when he stumbled on what he claims are a half-dozen unsigned de Koonings.
Today the de Kooning Foundation does not provide authentication services, so an official ruling will be difficult to come by. But the artist’s former assistant Lawrence Castagna told the New York Posthe believes the works are authentic and date from the 1970s.
“In my opinion, they are [by Willem de Kooning], there’s no doubt about it,” he said. Castagna’s verdict was seconded by “an important authority on de Kooning” who provided his opinion on the condition of anonymity,
Killen claims. He says he contacted the de Kooning Foundation to inform them of his discovery, but his calls and emails were not returned.
It remains to be seen whether the market will greet the works with skepticism or enthusiasm. Marion Maneker notes on Art Market Monitor that the artist’s small abstract works from the 1970s have been doing well at auction lately, “which only makes their discovery a little too on the nose, as they say.”
A small, but notably signed, abstract from 1977 sold at Phillips in May for $4.2 million, more than twice its $2 million high estimate, while at last Art Basel Hong Kong Lévy Gorvy was reported to have sold Microsoft Billlioner’s de Kooning for 35$ m.Database, de Kooning’s auction record stands at $66.3 million.
The dealer plans to unveil part of the works at his gallery on these nights, before selling hem in his upcoming auctions between October and January 2019.
Are we going to see other record-breaking de Kooning soon in auction? Let’s see next season.