At first glance, the small public storage unit located on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida wouldn't seem a likely place to uncover hidden treasure. No one would have ever guessed that behind the simple roll-up door and cheap lock laid a collection of fine canvasses hidden from the public eye for more than twenty years.
It was in this unobtrusive setting on a dismal overcast day in July of 2004 that Mac found the treasure that he had been searching for, a collection of more than two hundred paintings by the classically-trained, Repin Academy Russian artist, Ivan Garikow.
In the early 1990s, he worked with the Serious Crime Squad in Dublin, Ireland. The very nature of his work required him to investigate international art theft from time to time, so it wasn't long before Mac found himself developing an interest for fine Russian art.
"The pictures of Garikow's work intrigued me. His work had character and showed great skill, but when I researched him there wasn't a lot written about the man. It was like he had suddenly vanished," he recalled.
The sudden disappearance of Russian artist Garikow appealed to his investigative instincts. He managed to piece together some specific information regarding Garikow's early life, but then suddenly, the detective work came to an abrupt end.
No one was exactly sure what had happened to the artist. It seemed the Art world had lost sight of Ivan Garikow. Not long after the detective ran out of information, he noticed an occasional Garikow painting would appear for sale over the Internet from private sellers. This puzzled the detective. "I had found it difficult to believe that an artist as talented as Garikow would simply stop painting, and there was no evidence to suggest that he had died young," he said. "I realized there was a good chance that most of his paintings were unknown to the European art community."
In 2001, another Garikow painting was auctioned off in Orlando, Florida. He contacted the auctioneer and was told that the seller was Ivan's son, Arnold, but he had left no forwarding address.
Months later, Mac met Arnold met at an art show, and they agreed to meet whenever possible to discuss his father's collection. After much discussion, in 2003, Arnold decided to sell his father's entire collection to him.
After Ivan died in 1982, his son decided to put the collection in storage. For 25 years, Arnold kept the art collection hidden. The impressive collection of traditional Russian art by classically-trained Russian art Ivan Garikow was not a lost collection of paintings at all. It was put away, kept out of view, hidden; however, the lost collection was about to be rediscovered.
Mac had no idea of what Garikow's collection looked like. "Discovering this Russian artist's life collection was almost like discovering a Pharaoh's tomb for the very first time. I knew these pieces of fine art had not seen the light of day since the artist created them," he believed.
Over the next few months, they catalogued Ivan Garikow's entire collection. The storage shed also contained personal belongings and documents pertaining to Ivan's life. There were photographs, refugee papers, handwritten notes and newspaper clippings, but what surprised Mac the most was seeing the artist's cremated remains laying there. It was as if Ivan was still guarding and protecting his collection of paintings long after he died.
On the day that Mac took possession of Ivan Garikow's art collection and Arnold took his father's ashes elsewhere, it marked the first time that Ivan had ever been physically separated from his paintings, both in life and in death. Oddly enough, in September of 2004, just a few weeks after the ashes of artist Garikow had been separated from his art work, Florida was hit with the sixth strongest category 5 hurricane on record at that time, and its name? Hurricane Ivan.