Hundreds of art pieces retrieved by a car mechanic from an abandoned barn could be worth millions

A car mechanic saved hundreds of art pieces by Francis Hines, a Washington D.C.-born artist.

A barn in Watertown (Connecticut) was being sold in September 2017. However, the contractor discovered large canvases with car parts on them.

He called Jared Whipple, a Waterbury mechanic, to inquire if he was interested in the barn and its contents.


Whipple went back to the spot the next day. He said he found hundreds more plastic-wrapped artworks that were covered in dirt. He immediately began researching and discovered they were made by Francis Hines. An art curator estimates that the entire 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.

Francis Hines working on one of his art pieces

Whipple decided to make a sale of some of the art he’d found a few years ago after learning that artwork is taken seriously when it’s sold for large amounts of money. 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.

Jared Whipple standing beside an art piece by Francis Hines

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. Whipple estimates that the Hines collection of art will be worth millions if sold in its entirety.

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.

A 1987 painting by Francis Hines, Hardpoint pastel on Arches paper mounted on wood with synthetic fabric wrap

“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 to his garage and looked at the paintings. I was just really surprised at what I saw,” Hastings Falk said.

Francis Hines’ wrapping of the Washington Square Arch on May 4, 1980

He was intrigued by Hines’ wrapping art and compared his work to that of late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Wrapping refers to an art technique where fabric is tightly wrapped around an object. Christo and JeanneClaude are known for their wrapping installations in Europe. Their most well-known is the Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

Hines was responsible for the wrap of over 10 buildings in New York City during his career, including JFK Airport, 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 died at 96 years of age in 2016. His two sons are still living in New York City and Florida.

Two men posing beside a painting by Francis Hines

“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 Instagram to learn more about Francis Hines’ upcoming exhibit.

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