A mechanic found a treasure trove of artwork in a dumpster in Connecticut. They can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars


Four and a half years ago, a mechanic pulled a treasure trove of unidentified artwork from a Connecticut dumpster, hoping to use it for Halloween decorations. But after some amateur research, he learned that the pieces belonged to a once-prominent New York artist and were possibly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It turns out the artwork was done by Francis Hines, a largely forgotten abstract expressionist who made a name for himself wrapping canvases, sculptures and even entire buildings in fabric before leaving the world of New York art for a quiet life in Connecticut.

Next month, about 30 examples of its production will go through the two galleries of Hollis Taggart in New York and Southport, Connecticut, where prices will range from $12,500 to $20,000 a pop.

The mechanic, Jared Whipple, came across the artwork in September 2017 after being tipped off by a contractor friend whose company had been hired to clean up an abandoned barn in Watertown, presumably Hines’ workshop. Visiting the site the next day, he and another friend found hundreds of paintings and sculptures in the trash, most covered in protective plastic, some also covered in mold, dirt and other debris.

“We couldn’t understand what we saw,” he wrote on a site dedicated to the artist. “It was heartbreaking and very upsetting for us to see what looked like a lifetime of someone’s artwork thrown into dumpsters and heading to landfill. It didn’t sit well with either of us, and within minutes we decided that part of the collection should live on.

The men took away the art. If nothing else, they thought, it could make for a good “haunted art gallery” Halloween installation the following month. But after unpacking the artworks, Whipple began to reconsider their value.

Untitled (1984). Courtesy of Hollis Taggart.” width=”757″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17412-4000 -757×1024.jpeg 757w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17412-4000-222×300.jpeg 222w, https://news.artnet.com/app /news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17412-4000-37×50.jpeg 37w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17412-4000- 1419×1920.jpeg 1419w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17412-4000.jpeg 1500w” sizes=”(max-width: 757px) 100vw, 757px” />

Francis Hines, Untitled (1984). Courtesy of Hollis Taggart.

“I started seeing some that really caught my attention and made me step back to take a better look.” he called back. “It was something fine art had never done to me before. As a mechanic all my life, I was able to spot many hidden car parts and noticed a biomechanical theme running through some of the artwork.

It was during this time that Whipple also learned who was behind the designs. On the back of a 1961 canvas was a full name: “Francis Mattson Hines”. For years afterwards, the mechanic researched Hines’ life. He contacted the artist’s family, who allowed him to keep the work, and the former dealer, who provided details of Hines’ career. The latter introduced it to art historian Peter Hastings Falk, who came to see the collection hung in an indoor skate park that Whipple and others had built.

“I was so intrigued,” said Hastings Falk CT Insider. “I was really surprised at what I saw.”

Hines, who died aged 96 in 2016, shrouded several New York buildings throughout his career, including Washington Square Arch and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the historian said, comparing his work to that by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Francis Hines, <i>Untitled</i> (1983).  Courtesy of Hollis Taggart.” width=”1024″ height=”764″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17409-4000 -1024×764.jpeg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17409-4000-300×224.jpeg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app /news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17409-4000-50×37.jpeg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Francis-Hines-HTG17409-4000. jpeg 1500w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p class=Francis Hines, Untitled (1983). Courtesy of Hollis Taggart.

Hastings Falk introduced Whipple to Taggart, who made a pilgrimage to Waterbury to see the artwork two years ago. “I had never seen work like this, with physical wrappers on the canvases themselves, on images that were done quite professionally,” Taggart recalled in an interview with Artnet News.

“In terms of legacy,” the dealer continued, “I see him as a pioneering artist in a medium and format that was his own.”

The resulting exhibition, “Unboxing New York’s Packaging Mystery, is curated by Hastings Falk with Paul Efstathiou, Director of Contemporary Art at Hollis Taggart, and runs from 5 May to 11 June.

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