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Hundreds of art pieces retrieved by a car mechanic from a dumpster could be worth millions

A car mechanic is credited for saving hundreds of art pieces made by Francis Hines, a Washington D.C.-born artist.

In September 2017, a barn in Watertown, Connecticut, was about to be sold. However, the contractor found a trove of large canvases with car parts painted on them.

Since the barn and its contents were considered abandoned, he called his friend, Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, to see if he would be interested.

The next day, Whipple visited the location, where he said he retrieved hundreds of plastic-wrapped artworks covered in dirt. He immediately started researching and discovered that they were made by Francis Hines. According to an art curator, the entire art collection is worth millions.

Whipple, the car mechanic, then spent the next four years researching Hines and reaching out to the artist’s family and friends. In the process, he became friends with the artist’s family, and they allowed him to keep and sell the art.

After learning that artwork is taken seriously after being sold for large sums of money, Whipple decided to sell some of the art he found a few months ago. He hopes to get Hines’ name recognized in the art world.

“I pulled it out of this dumpster and I fell in love with it. I made a connection with it,” Whipple said. “My purpose is to get Hines into the history books.”

Now, Whipple and gallerist Hollis Taggart have collaborated to build a large exhibit of the late artist’s work. “Francis Hines: Unwrapping the Mystery of New York’s Wrapper” will showcase and offer for sale 35 to 40 pieces of Hines’ art from May 5 to June 11 at the Hollis Taggart galleries in Southport and New York City.

After this exhibit, Whipple hopes to get Hines’ work to major galleries in New York.

Art curator and historian Peter Hastings Falk estimates that the “wrapped” paintings can be sold at around $22,000 and his drawings at approximately $4,500. If sold in its entirety, the Hines art collection found by Whipple will be worth millions of dollars.

The mechanic didn’t disclose exactly how many art pieces he retrieved from the barn but said there are some he will not sell.

When Whipple first found the artworks, he first thought of hanging them in his indoor skateboard park in Waterbury called “The Warehouse” for Halloween. However, after discovering the artist behind the collection—which also included sculptures and small drawings—he decided to contact people in the art world instead.

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

The first person in the art world that became interested in Whipple’s discovery was Muldoon Elger, a retired art dealer and the owner of Vorpal Gallery in San Francisco. Elger, who had exhibited Hines’ work in the 1980s, connected Whipple to Hastings Falk.

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

He was intrigued by Hines’ wrapping art and compared his work to that of late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Wrapping is an art technique in which fabric is tightly wrapped around an object. Christo and Jeanne-Claude are renowned for their wrapping installations across Europe, with their most famous being the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Hines wrapped over 10 buildings in New York during his career, including the JFK Airport, the Washington Square Arch, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Hastings Falk described Hines as “New York’s wrapper.” He mentioned that while Christo and Jeanne-Claude are the most known wrappers, they never did work in the city.

Hines developed his career in Greenwich Village in New York and stored his life’s work in the Watertown barn where Whipple found them. He passed away in 2016 at 96 years old and has two living sons residing in New York and Florida.

“It was just an absolute fluke,” Hollis Taggart told The Art Newspaper about the discovery of Hines’ art. “They came so close to being lost forever and now here they are being resurrected and brought out to the world.”

“But for someone who happened to spot them and someone who felt very passionate about the work, who didn’t have anything to do with the art world but was fascinated and really spent years delving deeply into this, Jared Whipple, and he deserves a lot of credit,” the gallery added.

Follow Hollis Taggart on Instagram to learn more about the upcoming Francis Hines exhibit.

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