Two investors who bought a dilapidated cottage for $300,000 are set to make a $30million profit on the deal after discovering an amazing haul of lost artwork by a previous resident.
Thomas Schultz and Larry Joseph snapped up the bungalow on New York’s Long Island in 2007 intending to do it up and sell it on for around $100,000 more than they paid.
But they found thousands of abstract paintings and drawings by Armenian-American artist Arthur Pinajian, who lived in the house for decades but never received critical recognition during his lifetime.
Six years after the stunning discovery, the work has been valued at $30 million and some of the works have gone on display in a Manhattan gallery where he had always dreamed of exhibiting.
When Schultz and Joseph bought the house from the Pinajian family in the hope of turning a quick profit, the artist’s relatives advised the new owners simply to throw away the art stored in the cottage.
Thousands of pieces had been stored there since Pinajian’s death in 1999 aged 85.
But instead the canny investors agreed to buy the art for $2,500 – though more out of sympathy than with an eye to making money.
‘I didn’t want to be the person responsible for throwing a man’s life’s work into a dumpster,’ Mr Schultz told CBS New York. ‘Someone’s life’s work deserved more than that.’
The two men started to restore Pinajian’s collection, which included abstract expressionist paintings, comic book illustrations and sketches of his fellow Second World War soldiers.
In total, they came across 70,000 paintings, sketches and journals of his work.
As they restored Pinajian’s art, his reputation began to grow; art historian William Innes Homer recently dubbed him one of the best abstract painters of his era.
Pinajian’s recovered paintings were appraised by Peter Hastings Falk, a leading author who has previously worked for Andy Warhol’s estate.
The total value is believed to be around $30million. However, it could take several decades to sell of all the work.
Nevertheless, ‘I was surprised and thrilled’, Mr Schultz said.
Fifty of the artist’s best works are currently on display in the Fuller Building in New York City. Pinajian had long wanted to show his work in the skyscraper, according to Mr Schultz.
‘The artist was in the Fuller Building in the 1950s when he was visiting an exhibition of de Kooning’s works,’ he told CBS. ‘He talked about how he thought his works were better than de Kooning.’
The painter was born in New Jersey in 1914, and worked as a company clerk and cartoonist before the War.
Afterwards he devoted himself to his art, but had little commercial success and largely relied on his sister, a secretary, for financial support.
The pair, neither of whom ever married, lived together in Bellport for nearly three decades.
His cousin John Aramian said he would be delighted with his posthumous recognition.
‘He thought he was going to be the next Picasso,’ he told the New York Times in 2007. ‘They believed he would become famous and this would all pay off for them one day, but it just never happened.’