Uplifting: Father’s Portrait Returned to Son by Auction Winner

What do you do when you find a priceless item in someone’s old storage unit? Thanks to digital technology, it’s easier than ever to track down previous tenants and reach out to return sentimental treasures. That’s what happened with Alex Miller, who wrote a delightful account of how his father’s art returned to him.

Miller’s father has produced artwork throughout his life, including a well-known painting of a father and child. He remembers losing the artwork left in the storage unit due to delinquent payments, and in Miller’s retelling, he didn’t seem to like being reminded of his loss.

Fortunately, the storage auction winners reached out to Miller. Karie Farman identified the artist based on an article Miller had written. As of this writing, Farman and Miller’s father are discussing the return of their items.

Meanwhile, Miller set his heart on one piece in particular: an unfinished drawing of him at 18 in his Navy dress uniform. Because of the irreplaceable and invaluable nature of the item, Farman offered to return it for free. Miller insisted on compensating her, and he now owns the portrait his father started years ago.

For storage unit buyers, this success story inspires us to return items that families may never have wanted to part with. In Farman’s case, it wasn’t about money, but about doing the right thing. She labored on her own time to investigate the source of the artwork and ultimately received an undisclosed amount of money.

Have you ever returned items of sentimental value to their former owners? Share your stories in the comments, and be sure to check out the story on Quartz, because Miller tells it wonderfully: My father drew a portrait of me a decade ago. I just bought it back from a stranger on Facebook.

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Meet Vivian Maier, A Storage Treasure

Meet Vivian Maier, A Storage Treasure

Wouldn’t it be great to find an undiscovered Van Gogh in a storage unit? Or to solve the mystery of the stolen Rembrandt paintings, now missing for 27 years?

These scenarios might be a tad far-fetched. However, for historian John Maloof, an interest in local history led him to accidentally, posthumously discover the photography of Vivian Maier. Her incredible images of city life, from dramatic scenes to daily routines, are beautifully composed and expertly captured. Many of the images tell stories, and even more leave the viewer wondering about what might have been going on. This quintessential 20th century street photography may have been lost in storage had it not been for a lucky find.

Photographs Discovered At Auction

Maloof first encountered her work at an auction selling items from a repossessed storage locker. He needed old photographs of the area for his book about Chicago’s Northwest Side, and paid $400 for a box of negatives from the 1960s.

When he finally got around to looking at the contents of the box, he realized he’d uncovered treasure. He contacted one of Maier’s former employers to gain access to two storage lockers — the contents of which were destined for the garbage. Maier was a hoarder, and it was difficult to sort trash from treasure in her packed floor-to-ceiling storage units. Yet the first box Maloof discovered ignited a passion for her work, and he now owns 90% of her collection.

Treasure Hidden In Storage Lockers For Decades

A highly lauded documentary delves into the photographer’s biography, and a new book by Ann Marks delves even deeper, dispelling some of the myths that have already formed around her life story. For those of us at Storage Treasures, it’s a fascinating journey into art and art history that began with the auction of a mysterious box, abandoned by its charismatic, talented owner for reasons unknown.

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