BELLPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Works by an obscure Armenian-American abstract impressionist discovered in a Long Island garage have been appraised at $30 million.
Thomas Schultz discovered thousands of paintings, drawings and journals by Arthur Pinajian after he bought a cottage in Bellport in 2007.
“The smallest house in Bellport Village and maybe one of the most important, most significant art finds in art history is an interesting paradox,” Schultz said. “It’s my understanding that if the works were sold in the retail market it can fetch up to $30 million in retail prices, but that could take 20, 30 years to do.”
Schultz said he was told by members of the Pinajian family who owned the home to just throw the artwork away.
“What do you do with 70,000 pieces of art? Logistically, it’s very complicated to store, it’s heavy, it requires a lot of energy to move it and they were just not interested in doing that,” Schultz said. “We had directions from the owner of the house to please just empty the contents of the garage into the Dumpster that was already parked outside.”
Schultz told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall that after coming across the vast pile of artwork he gave it a quick inspection and realized it was all created by one artist.
“Pinajian was the name that appeared on most of the canvasses,” Schultz said, adding that he quickly decided not toss out the collection. “I didn’t want to be the person responsible for throwing a man’s life’s work into a Dumpster.”
Some of the pieces have already sold for $500,000 and 50 of the artist’s landscapes are currently on exhibit at the Fuller Building in Manhattan.
“It was important that this collection and this artist gets the recognition that he deserves,” Schultz said. “It is an exciting journey to go from what we call the exhumation of the collection — from the dirt floor of the garage to exhibition.”
Schultz said Pinajian longed for his work to be displayed in the Fuller Building.
“The artist was in the Fuller Building in the 1950s when he was visiting an exhibition of [Willem] de Kooning’s works,” Schultz said. “He talked about how he thought his works were better than de Kooning.”
A recently published book by art historian William Innes Homer calls Pinajian’s abstractions among the best of his era.
Pinajian started his career as a comic book illustrator for Marvel in the 1930s. He died in 1999 at age 85.
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