Art Dealer Discovers Original De Kooning Works In Storage Locker Bought For $15,000

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A gallery owner’s gamble on the contents behind a dusty door to a storage unit could make him millions. The treasure inside wasn’t exactly buried, but it was most definitely hidden.

The paintings, believed to be by the artist Willem de Kooning, were getting dusty for nearly a decade in a New Jersey storage unit.

“I didn’t know there were de Koonings in there,” David Killen told CBS2. “I just saw inexpensive art that was damaged, and I knew there were 200 works.”

An estate executor had tried to return the works to owners, but eventually they were considered abandoned and put up for sale. Killen paid $15,000 for the unit’s contents, roughly $75 for each work. A total of six de Kooning paintings were in the storage unit, which he says he won’t start auctioning off until October.

So how much will they go for? Killen thinks somewhere between $10,000 and $10 million.

“I think $10,000 is a little low, and I think $10 million is a little high,” he said. “The problem of trying to narrow it down is auctions are completely unpredictable.”

Killen says two experts, one of whom actually worked with de Kooning, have verified the paintings. It remains unclear if the art was ever meant to remain public.

“He painted on all kinds of different paper, but often on newspaper,” Killen said. “This is de Kooning at the height. The colors, the intensity. I mean, it’s gorgeous.”

The paintings are unsigned, but Killen says that isn’t unusual for a de Kooning.

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