A CT mechanic found hundreds of pieces of art in a dumpster. They’re worth 'millions.'

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, Conn., found a large art collection from Francis Hines in a trash container in Watertown, Conn. in 2017.

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, Conn., found a large art collection from Francis Hines in a trash container in Watertown, Conn. in 2017.

Contributed by Jared Whipple

In September of 2017, as a barn in Watertown was being cleared to be sold, the contractor found large canvases with car parts painted on them. The space and its contents had been deemed "abandoned," so he called his friend Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, because he thought he might like them. 

The next day, Whipple went to the dumpster where he said retrieved the hundreds of art pieces wrapped in plastic and covered in dirt. He later discovered the art was created by Francis Hines, a Washington, D.C.-born artist that resided in Connecticut and New York. According to an art curator, the pieces are collectively worth "millions" of dollars. 

"I immediately started researching," said Whipple, who spent the next four years doing research on Hines and contacting the artist's friends and family. 

Now, Whipple has collaborated with Hollis Taggart, which has galleries in Southport and New York City, to build a large exhibit of Hines' work. The exhibit will showcase and offer for sale 35 to 40 pieces of the found art from May 5 to June 11 at both Hollis Taggart Southport and New York galleries.

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large art collection from Francis Hines in a dumpster in Watertown in 2017.

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large art collection from Francis Hines in a dumpster in Watertown in 2017.

Contributed by Jared Whipple
Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large art collection from Francis Hines in a dumpster in Watertown in 2017.

Jared Whipple, a car mechanic from Waterbury, found a large art collection from Francis Hines in a dumpster in Watertown in 2017.

Contributed by Jared Whipple

Art curator and historian Peter Hastings Falk estimates that Hines' "wrapped" paintings can be sold at around $22,000 and his drawings at around $4,500 — which would make the collection found by Whipple to be worth millions of dollars if sold in its entirety. Whipple did not disclose exactly how many pieces he retrieved from 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 "The Warehouse" for Halloween. But after finding out about the artist behind the collection, which included paintings, sculptures and small drawings, he decided against it and started contacting people in the art world. 

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

The first person in the art field that became interested in Whipple's findings was Muldoon Elger, a retired art dealer who owned the 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," said Hastings Falk.

Comparing Hines' work to Christo and Jeanne-Claude's art, Hastings Falk was most intrigued by the artist's wrapping art. Wrapping is an art technique in which 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 wrapped more than 10 buildings in New York, including the Washington Square Arch, JFK Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The Washington Square Arch is wrapped by artist Francis Hines circa 1980 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

The Washington Square Arch is wrapped by artist Francis Hines circa 1980 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

Images Press/Getty Images

"Hines is really New York's wrapper," said Hastings Falk, who mentioned that while Christo and Jeanne-Claude are the most known wrappers, they never did work in the city. Hines is considered an abstract expressionist master and his style was uniquely innovative, according to Hastings Falk.

Hines developed his career in New York's Greenwich Village and kept his life's work store in the Watertown barn where Whipple found the art. The artist died in 2016 at age 96 and has two living sons living in New York and Florida. 

During his research, Whipple also found friends and family of Hines and started to build an archive of his career; he even became friends of the artist's family, he said, who have allowed him to keep and sell the art. In late 2021, Whipple showed some pieces at a retrospective exhibit for the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury titled "Discovering New York's Wrapper: The Art of Francis Hines." He didn't offer any pieces for sale at that exhibit.

A few months ago, Whipple decided to sell some of the art that he found with the intention of getting Hines' name recognized in the art world. He learned that artwork is taken seriously after it is sold for great large sums of money, he said. After the exhibit at Hollis Taggart, Whipple hopes to get Hines' work to major New York galleries, he said. 

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