Killen in his auction house. Photo credit: Netanel Saso

David Killen is the owner of David Killen Gallery, an auction house located in Chelsea. Though his auction house has only been open for 6 years, he has over 40 years of experience in fine and decorative arts. As David Killen did not plan to become an auctioneer when he grew up, his ability to notice an issue in the field and make it better showcases his instinctive entrepreneurial traits.  

I first discovered David Killen when Dr. Rhodes sent me the Art Net News article about his discovery of six De Kooning paintings and one Paul Klee in an abandoned storage unit in New Jersey.  I immediately reached out to him and was almost caught off guard by his warm demeanor when he picked up the phone.  He was warm, professional and happy to tell his story.

When you walk into his auction house, you feel as though you have stepped into his mind, or even into a painting itself. Artwork covers the walls, ceilings, and even the floor. Auction houses typically change and alternate due to the spontaneity of what people bring in for appraisal, which can sometimes make them appear unorganized and hectic. However, because there is so much information that seems to be available to the public, it feels as though nothing is being hidden by David Killen.His auction house is as open and inviting as his personality.

As he has recently received publicity all over the world for his discoveries, you may not know the full story.    The storage unit was originally owned by Susan Schnitzer, who was a famous paper restorer who later on married Orrin H. Riley. Orrin H. Riley was a world renowned art restorer who opened and ran the Guggenheim art restoration program for 20 years. He later founded his own  restoration studio with Susan under his name. Killen’s discovery certainly not only brings to light work by well known artists but highlights Riley’s contribution to the fine art world.

A close up of some of the work Killen exhibits in his auction house. Photo credit: @NetanelSaso

At the time of the interview  Killen was in the authentication process.  He hit a road block when the De Kooning Foundation declined to provide professional assistance.  Killeen shares that this is not an unusual situation as many non-profits are worried about the legal ramifications of authentication.  Killen was undettered and spoke with a former assistant to De Kooning who authenticated the works discovered.

What stuck out the most for me when listening to Killen describe the works is how we will never know if the paintings were intended to be sold or showcased by De Kooning. It is a controversial matter when the artist is not alive, to bring out work to the public.

Killen is planning on selling these paintings in the Fall of 2018, so there is still time to go to his gallery and see the preview of the works.

Netanel Saso

Netanel Saso

VAR Fellow

Netanel Saso is a BFA student at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She is originally from Tel Aviv in Israel, and moved to the United States at a young age. At the Cooper Union, she is primarily grounded in printmaking and the moving image. Her work plays with trust as she recreates through manipulation and exploration of space in a whimsical manner, the original state of objects, childhood memories, and found footage. Her passion for art and education grew when she worked as an assistant and teacher at Studio Arts Dallas in Texas and volunteered at the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art. She is currently a volunteer at the Rubin Museum of Art.  As a VAR Fellow, she looks forward to working towards her dream of opening her own creative art studio for all ages in the future. 

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