See the twists and turns of life. The solidarity of 50 years ago made the husband and wife Iri and Tony Demas earn more than 1 million rials with just one picture. Then they traded a grilled cheese sandwich for a painting, for a man who needed food, and now they’ve discovered that work is rare and very valuable.
All this time, the painting remained in the family home and never sparked the couple’s interest in learning more about the artist.
This year, when Irene began researching art auctions on the Internet, she discovered that the artist’s works were worth thousands of dollars, and she had a real fortune at home.
Millions of solidarity
Irene remembers that in the 1970s she and her husband opened a restaurant in London called “Villa”.
The chef didn’t show up on opening day, and the only thing he knew how to make at the time was a grilled cheese sandwich.
“I honestly didn’t know anything about food,” she explained. “But I knew how to make grilled cheese, so I thought. that’s it. That’s the only thing I knew how to do… and maybe boil water.”
The sandwiches were a success and became the flagship of the place. Also over a snack, he met Audrey and John Kinner.
John took pictures and offered Irene some in exchange for a meal for him and his wife, who accepted in solidarity with the couple.
“We really love your art. He did really beautiful watercolors … he did a lot of European-type things, English countryside and beautiful animals.”
It was during one of these exchanges that John presented the “prized” painting to the couple. Irene remembers John telling her about an artist he met who had limited mobility.
“John came up with this really weird looking art. It was frameless, very childish, very primitive art that I had never seen before,” he explained.
“I am not an artist and we were not art collectors. We only knew what we liked.”
Irene says she put the art in her son’s room and the painting stayed there for years.
Things changed a bit when Irene began to study more artworks and became interested in artists and styles.
It was then that he found an article about Maud Lewis and found out that the artist’s work was worth a lot.
“There was an article about him in one of the newspapers,” said Irene.
“More and more people were collecting and buying his art. Things began to appear. I started seeing his art at auctions. You know, and they were paying $2,000, $3,000 back then.”
“But I wasn’t really studying because, like I said, we loved the show,” he explained.
“We didn’t buy it as an investment, or we didn’t think it was a great piece of art,” he said.
This year he decided to get art insurance, and that’s when he discovered that the painting was a unique piece and worth a lot.
Since then, several auctioneers began making offers to Irene and Tony until they decided they would sell the painting. The work was sold in May this year and raised $272,548 for the couple, almost 1.5 million rials.
Irene says it was a little difficult to leave the art that has been in her home for decades, but she thought it would be great for the family since she and Tony are retired.
Now they want to invest in a quiet life and travel more around the world. Irene and Tony’s plans are to go on a long road trip and enjoy life.
With today’s information