A couple of investors made the investment of a lifetime after they bought a $300,000 cottage in Long Island, only to discover that there were $30 million worth of paintings inside.
Thomas Schultz and Larry Joseph bought the house in 2007, planning to fix it up and sell it for a $100,000 profit.
Once they entered the home, they found thousands of paintings and drawings by Armenian-American artist Arthur Pinajian. Pinajian lived in the house for decades but was not successful during his lifetime.
They took the paintings and drawings to be valued, and found they were worth $30 million in total. Some of the works are on display in the Fuller Building in New York City, a place where Pinajian always dreamed of being showcased.
When the pair bought the home, relatives of the artist told them to just throw away the art he stored inside, believing it wasn’t worth much.
Thousands of his pieces were stored there since he died in 1999 at 85 years old.
But they didn’t want to be responsible for throwing away a man’s work, and so bought the art for $2,500 from the relatives.
“I didn’t want to be the person responsible for throwing a man’s life’s work into a dumpster,” Schultz said. “Someone’s life’s work deserved more than that.”
They began restoring his pieces, including abstract expressionist paintings, comic book illustrations and sketches of World War II soldiers.
They found 70,000 paintings and sketches, and took them to an appraiser to determine their value.
Though Pinajian was not successful or recognized in his lifetime, he began to grow a reputation when he passed. William Innes Homer, an art historian, recently called him one of the best abstract painters of the era.
Peter Hastings Falk, a leading author who had worked for Andy Warhol’s estate, appraised the paintings and said he believes they are worth around $30 million, but it could take several decades to sell the work.
Despite the long period of time they must wait to collect the money, Schultz said he is still “thrilled and surprised.”
Pinajian was born in New Jersey in 1914, and worked as a clerk and cartoonist before he entered the war.
After he returned, he devoted his life to art, and lived with his sister.
His cousin is happy that the artist is finally receiving the recognition he deserved.
“He thought he was going to be the next Picasso,” John Aramian said. “They believed he would become famous and this would all pay off for them one day, but it just never happened.”