N.Y. Man Finds Trove of Fine Art

Darryl Kelly and Warhol Piece

Following the death of photographer and recluse Harry Shunk, Darryl Kelly was hired as a cleanup man for Shunk’s congested apartment. In time, Kelly would come to realize that he had stumbled upon a hoarder’s trove of valuable fine art.

“Their fates crossed in 2006 under the worst of circumstances: in Mr. Shunk’s West Village apartment, where his body had decomposed for about 10 days before it was found, upside down and trapped by stacks of his accumulated possessions, with only his ankles and his feet visible.

The cleanup specialist and the hoarder — yin and yang of New York’s real estate ecology. Now, the death of one may be a fresh start for the other.

At a storage locker in SoHo recently, Mr. Kelly, 56, displayed mementos from his 2006 trip to Mr. Shunk’s apartment: sketches and three-dimensional maquettes by Christo; large-format photographs of the artist Yves Klein directing naked women dabbed in paint; lithographs by Andy Warhol and Paul Jenkins; a menu handwritten by Larry Rivers; museum posters; gallery fliers; magazine clippings; a packet of gold leaf belonging to Mr. Klein…

Harry Shunk, born Schunke, was a mysterious figure in the art world who invented a biography for himself and spent much of his last years refusing contact with the outside world. Born in 1924 in Germany, he migrated to Paris in the 1950s, where he and his partner, János Kender, became the court photographers for members of the avant-garde New Realist movement, including Mr. Klein, Christo, Claes Oldenburg and Niki de Saint Phalle.

"Into the Void"
“Leap into the void”

Their 1960 photo collage of Mr. Klein apparently diving from a second-story window, “Leap into the void” is part of the Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection. But in the 1970s, after Mr. Kender left him, Mr. Shunk began to unravel…”

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