Hidden Jackpot: Several de Koonings Found in Old NJ Warehouse

What a gallery owner assumed would be a big box of junk ended in huge surprise—and a worthy gamble.  

One of many de Kooning paintings found. Photo by David Killen via New York Post

Manhattan dealer David Killen warily bought out a warehouse of various paintings in Bergen County, New Jersey last year for about $15k, planning to eventually auction off the “filler” works. While recently unloading, he came across large boxes labeled “deKooning,” one of the leading Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s.   

Upon inspection and some expert insight—they’re legit.

 

Willem de Kooning in his studio. Photograph by Eddy Posthuma de Boer via the de Kooning Foundation

After some digging, seems the paintings were under the care of a conservator named Orrin Riley in the 80s.  After his death, his girlfriend, Susanne Schnitzer, took over the business, but a sudden car accident then left the estate to the hands of close acquaintances in NJ. 

Years later, burdened to warehouse fees and unable to find the original owners, Killen was contacted with the offer to buy out the warehouse of paintings, which was legally identified as abandoned property.

The estimated 200 paintings are thought to be from the 70s, made in de Kooning’s East Hampton studio…funny what an artist considered unimportant (didn’t even bother to sign ’em)…is now worth millions. 

Diane Szczepaniak
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