Art found in a container in Connecticut is worth “millions”

In September 2017, while the barns in Watertown were being cleaned for sale, the contractor found large canvases on which parts of the car were painted. He considered the space and its contents “abandoned,” so he called his friend Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, because he thought he might like it.

The next day, Whipple went to the dumpster where, he said, he retrieved hundreds of works of art wrapped in plastic and covered in dirt. He later discovered that the art was created by Francis Hines, an artist born in Washington, DC who lived in Connecticut and New York City. According to the art curator, the works together are worth “millions” of dollars.

“I immediately started researching,” said Whipple, who spent the next four years researching Hines and contacting the artist’s friends and family.

Now Whipple was collaborating with Hollis Taggart, which has galleries in Southport and New York, to build a large exhibition of Hines work. The exhibition will exhibit and offer for sale 35 to 40 pieces of found artwork from May 5 to June 11 at the Hollis Taggart Southport and New York galleries.

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large collection of Francis Hines artwork in a container in Watertown 2017.

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large collection of Francis Hines artwork in a container in Watertown 2017.

Contributed by Jared Whipple

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large collection of Francis Hines artwork in a container in Watertown 2017.

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large collection of Francis Hines artwork in a container in Watertown 2017.

Contributed by Jared Whipple

Art curator and historian Peter Hastings Falk estimates that Hines’ “wrapped” paintings could sell for about $ 22,000 and his drawings for about $ 4,500 – a collection Whipple found would be worth millions of dollars if sold in its entirety. Whipple did not reveal exactly how many pieces he pulled out of the trash, but said there are some he will not sell.

When Whipple originally found the pieces, his first thought was to hang them in his indoor skateboard park in Waterbury called “Warehouse” for Halloween. But after learning about the artist behind the collection, which included paintings, sculptures and small drawings, he decided against it and started contacting people from the art world.

“I’ve always been a mechanic and I’m famous in the world of skateboarding, but not in the world of art. So trying to get people to even open your emails and take you seriously was a big challenge,” Whipple said.

The first person in the field of art to take an interest in Whipple’s findings was Muldoon Elger, a retired art dealer who owned the Vorpal Gallery in San Francisco. Elger, who exhibited Hines ’work in the 1980s, linked Whipple to Hastings Falk.

“I was so intrigued. I went there to his garage to look at the pictures. I was really surprised by what I saw,” Hastings Falk said.

Comparing Hines’ work with the art of Christ and Jeanne-Claude, Hastings Falk was most intrigued by the artist’s art of wrapping. Wrapping is an artistic technique in which the fabric is tightly wrapped around an object. Christo and Jeanne-Claude are known for their wrapping installations across Europe – their most famous being the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In his career, Hines has wrapped up more than 10 buildings in New York City, including the Washington Square Arch, JFK Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The Washington Square Arch was done by artist Francis Hines around 1980 in New York City.  (Photo by PL Gould / IMAGES / Getty Images)

The Washington Square Arch was done by artist Francis Hines around 1980 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould / IMAGES / Getty Images)

Pictures Press / Getty Images

“Hines is really a New York wrapper,” said Hastings Falk, who mentioned that although Christo and Jeanne-Claude are the most famous wrappers, they have never worked in the city. Hines is considered a master of abstract expressionism and his style was uniquely innovative, according to Hastings Falk.

Hines developed his career in New York’s Greenwich Village and held the plot of his life in the Watertown barn where Whipple found art. The artist passed away in 2016 at the age of 96 and has two living sons living in New York and Florida.

During his research, Whipple also found friends and family of Hines and began building an archive of his career; he even became a friend of the artist’s family, he said, which allowed him to keep and sell the artwork. In late 2021, Whipple showed some work in a retrospective exhibition for Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury entitled “Discovering the New York Cover: The Art of Francis Hines”. He did not offer any pieces for sale at that exhibition.

A few months ago, Whipple decided to sell some of the artwork he found with the intention of making Hines ’name recognizable in the art world. He has learned that works of art are taken seriously after being sold for large sums of money, he said. After an exhibition at Hollis Taggart, Whipple hopes Hines ’work will come to major New York galleries, he said.

“I pulled it out of this container and fell in love with it. I made a connection with it,” Whipple said, adding that he hopes to make Hines an established name in the art world. “My purpose is to introduce Hines to the history books,” he said.

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