Painting Bought at Goodwill Sells for $34,500 at Auction

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Courtesy Sotheby's New York

An abstract painting by Ilya Bolotowsky, which was bought at a thrift store for $9.99, and sold at auction for $34,375.

An artist who specializes in pet drawings, Beth Feeback planned on covering the two $10 paintings she had bought at a Goodwill in North Carolina with a pair of her signature giant cat faces. The paintings, she thought, were probably from the ‘70s, but lacked the whimsical fun of abstract art.

It was a stroke of luck that the Concord, N.C. woman forgot to recycle the paintings as canvases after she brought them home in April.  Last week — nearly five months later — one of them sold at Soethby’s for $34,375.

It turned out to be a work by Ilya Bolotowsky, an influential Russian émigré artist who died in 1981, titled Vertical Diamond.

On April 28, Feeback and her husband stopped by a Goodwill in Oak Ridge, N.C., on the way to an art show. She found the weather nippy and wanted to look for a blanket, she told ABC.  Earlier that same day a couple brought Vertical Diamond to the thrift store, after failing to sell them at a church yard sale. The couple said they had picked up the abstract artist’s work at a textile company’s liquidation sale.

One thing that saved Vertical Diamond from giant cat faces are back labels that identify Bolotowsky as the artist and reveal that some time ago, the paintings were displayed in the Weatherspoon Art Gallery at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Spotting the labels, a friend advised her to find out more about the paintings. The results blew her away.

“I decided, you know, I’ll check, I’ll Google these guys. The first one I Google was Bolotowsky. And I Google it and the first thing I saw was the Wikipedia page and I was like, ‘Holy crap. I better get those up off the floor over there,’” she told ABC.

After the news of the lost art spread, the art gallery offered an explanation of what might have happened to the paintings.

With the sales proceeds, Feeback said she and her husband planned to renovate their home and pay down debts, ABC reported. To thank the couple who donated the paintings to Goodwill, she offered to paint them a portrait of Buttons, their late cat. And perhaps to thank Bolotowsky, she said she wanted to re-create Vertical Diamond — but with giant cat faces in the middle.