Darryl Kelly lives in the Bronx and has never spent a night outside New York City. Harry Shunk had photographs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and he worked with some of the great artists of the late 20th century. Mr. Kelly is a cleanup man. Mr. Shunk was a recluse and a compulsive hoarder. […]
When Mr. Shunk died in June 2006, there was no money for a proper burial, said Evelyne Chemouny, a former social worker at Westbeth. Mr. Kender [Shunk’s partner] also died in poverty, in 2009. No major American newspaper appears to have acknowledged either man’s death.
But there was stuff. The building staff had to remove the door from its hinges to get into the apartment because there was too much stuff inside to push it open. Mr. Shunk died without a will or known relatives, so the Manhattan public administrator took control of his estate. For about a week, a team of investigators removed whatever it deemed valuable. Two years later, at auction, the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation acquired the bulk of Mr. Shunk’s archive, about 200,000 photographs and other items, valued at $2 million.
Mr. Russas called Mr. Kelly to haul off the rest.
“It was almost like an archaeological dig,” Mr. Russas said.
For a week, Mr. Kelly and his team removed items through a first-floor window, filling seven dumpsters.
There were papers and portfolios, books and newspapers and boxes of meticulously rolled tube socks. As they threw things out, they noticed people grabbing them from the dumpster.
— “Surprise Bounty for a Clean Up Artist”, John Leland for the New York Times