JOSHUA TREE — Michael Wilson, a Joshua Tree resident and a collector of rare artifacts, was featured in the Hi-Desert Star in March 2012 when he believed he had discovered a lost Van Gogh landscape. He has not yet been able to get the piece authenticated, the process being very slow and expensive.
But, another of his thrift-store finds, an early painting of Andy Warhol’s called “Boy with Birdcage,” has been authenticated and appraised by G.B. Tate & Sons Fine Art of Laramie, Wyoming, as valued between $500,000 and $2.5 million dollars.
In the appraisal document, G.B. Tate and Sons writes, “The subject artwork is typical of the artist and compares favorably in quality and subject matter with many other examples of the genre offered in the marketplace. All other factors, including technique, style and signature, are consistent with original works by the artist.”
Wilson realized he might have an authentic Warhol after spotting a news item about the discovery of a sketch by Andy Warhol.
“I was mysteriously drawn to the Warhol and paid around $40 for it. There was a capital letter ‘A’ with a swirl,” Wilson said. “I kept it in the attic until I saw a news release about an early Andy Warhol drawing that was found in Las Vegas by an Englishman. The ‘A’ matched the one on the painting.”
Wilson found the Warhol painting at the Angel View Thrift Store in Yucca Valley. He plans to find a museum in which to exhibit the painting before selling it.
“I have people looking for a buyer, but first I would like to display it to the public,” said Wilson. “They are the public’s paintings, I just happened to have discovered who painted them.”
After the sale, Wilson said he plans to share the proceeds with the clerk who sold him the painting, whose name he knows only as Ruthie. Then he will use some of the money to facilitate the authentication of the lost Van Gogh.
Carlos Reyes, of ArtFx studio in Yucca Valley, was helping Wilson and communicated with a researcher with the New York Metroplitan Museum. “After studying the evidence, he told Carlos at ArtFx, ‘Do not let anyone touch the painting. Go directly to the Netherlands,” Wilson said.
Wilson did not recognize the artists when he first spotted the paintings. “I thought the Van Gogh was old and attractive,” he said. “I paid about $50 for that.