photos in box

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.

Read More: I think I found something… how do I know for sure?

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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  1. Kathy Franklin

    I guess I am confused about whether or not t the owner/ manager of a facility is allowed to with hold items out of a sale. It would seem as if the owner Is due a refund if the sale of the locker goes over what the customer owes, they wouldn’t receive any money from the item the owner/ manager kept? I kept numerous screen shots where they (storage facility) says car is not included, truck not included, or management reserves the right to remove or exclude any items prior to sale. I showed the ads to a friend who says since they own the facility they can keep anything they want. This doesn’t seem right to me, who is right me Or my friend

  2. that’s the coolest little anecdote I’ve read in a while. thx for sharing.

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