A Connecticut mechanic who found dozens of abandoned art pieces by Francis Hines – an artist famously known as ‘New York’s wrapper’ – in a barn five years ago and is now set to make millions off the pieces.
In September 2017, Jared Whipple, 40, of Waterbury, received a phone call from his contractor friend George Martin, 47, of Naugatuck, about large canvases with painted car parts found inside Hines’ abandoned barn, as he thought the mechanic might like the pieces.
The following day, Whipple went to the dumpster where the hundreds of artworks were being stored, covered in dirt and wrapped in plastic, to inspect the pieces.
‘I immediately started researching,’ Whipple told the CT Insider. ‘I pulled it out of this dumpster and I fell in love with it. I made a connection with it.’
‘Being a collector of vintage items, especially anything Harley Davidson or automobile related, I was very intrigued as to what I might find,’ he wrote on his website.
The Waterbury man would go on to spend four years researching the artist, Hines, who died in 2016 and was famous for wrapping a few of New York City’s iconic structures – including the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village in 1980 – in 8,000 yards of white polyester fabric. He was also known for his wrapped paintings, sculptures and public art projects.
An art curator determined the pieces were collectively worth ‘millions.’
Curator Peter Hastings Falk estimated the ‘wrapped’ pieces – canvas covered in the same stretched fabric as the Arch – could be sold for around $22,000, while Hines’ drawings could go for around $4,500, making the entire collection worth millions. It is unclear how many pieces Whipple currently owns.
Hines’ artwork is going to be displayed at Hollis Taggart’s Southport art gallery from May 5 to June 11. Some of the pieces will also be shown at the Chelsea location in New York City. Whipple said he doesn’t plan on selling every piece he owns, and the two exhibits will show 35 to 40 pieces that will be for sale.
Fifteen wrapped pieces and five large-scale pieces will displayed at the Southport location, including others pieces of art. A smaller display will be available in Chelsea.
Jared Whipple, 40, of Waterbury, Connecticut, (pictured) owns hundreds of Francis Hines’ pieces. He received a phone call from his contractor friend George Martin, 47, of Naugatuck, about large canvases with painted car parts found inside an abandoned barn, as he thought the mechanic might like the pieces, in 2017
Whipple (left, with a friend) stands next to a Hines’ piece. The mechanic is now selling 35 to 40 pieces between May 5 and June 11
Many of the paintings featured painted car parks, which Martin thought Whipple would like as a mechanic
Hines (pictured in 2008) at the SLAG Gallery opening for Dumitru Gorzo in New York City
Hines was born in Washington, D.C., in 1920 and spent time in NYC and Connecticut throughout his life. He kept his artwork in the barn Whipple and Martin found it in and became vastly known across New York City. However, in his later years in life and in his career, his slipped into obscurity – which Whipple now wants to reverse.
Hines was known for his expression and fascination with cars.
When the mechanic first saw the pieces, he felt drawn to give them a closer look. Whipple wrote: ‘[Martin and I] decided to unwrap the artwork to get a better look. Once we opened them in better light, we not only noticed the good shape they were in but more important the quality of the work. I started seeing some that really grabbed my attention and made me step back to take a better look. It was something that fine art had never done to me before.’
The mechanic began contacting the artist’s family and friends after the discovery, who allowed him to keep and sell the pieces. It is unknown why family did not want to keep Hines’ work.
He got in contact with Hines’ son Jonathan, 67, of New York, who got to see his father’s art displayed at the Mattatuck Museum on February 18.
Hines, who died in 2016, was most famous for wrapping the Washington Square Arch in 1980 (pictured) and became known as New York’s wrapper. He wrapped the arch in collaboration with local civics groups and NYU representatives to raise awareness of the terrible condition of the monument and to help raise money to clean and maintain the arch
‘[The art show] would have blown his mind, it would have f**king blown his mind,’ Jonathan said in an interview posted to Whipple’s Instagram page. ‘And in this industrial space!
‘You know, I think he’s here in spirit,’ he said. Jonathan also called his father’s work ‘f**king beautiful’ and told Whipple he thought the pieces fit ‘perfectly in this space’ as they both admired the artwork against the background of red and white brick.
The show – titled Discovering New York’s Wrapper: The Art of Francis Hines – ran from September 26 to November 21, 2021, but none of the pieces were for sale. A few months ago, Whipple decided he did want to sell the artwork with the intention that Hines’ name and work would become recognized in the art world.
He told the CT Insider that art work is only taken seriously after it’s sold for large sums of money and is hoping that one day, Hines’ work will appear in well-known New York galleries.
‘My purpose is to get Hines into the history books,’ he told CT Insider.
The mechanic and skateboarder admitted it was hard to get people to take him seriously 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,’ he told CT Insider.
He had originally planned on hanging the pieces in his skateboard park, called The Warehouse, in Waterbury, for Halloween, but ultimately decided against it after finding out Hines’ identity.
Martin called Whipple in September 2017 after finding hundreds of the paintings in Hines’ abandoned barn (pictured)
He went on to unwrap all of them and began searching for an F. Hines and spent four years contacting family and friends of the artist, including his son Jonathan, who got to view his father’s art in a gallery on February 18
The first person in the art world to take Whipple seriously was retired art dealer Muldoon Elger, who opened the Vorpal Gallery in San Francisco. Elger had displayed some of Hines’ work in the 1980s and eventually connected Whipple with Falk, who said he was ‘so intrigued’ by the artwork.
‘I went there to his garage to look at the paintings. I was just really surprised at what I saw,’ he told CT Insider. He compared the artwork to that of Christo and Jeanne Claude, who also did wrapping art and was most famous for doing it to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris.
Hines had famously wrapped 10 buildings in New York, including JFK Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. He was most famous for wrapping the Washington Square Arch, which was a collaboration between him, local civics groups and NYU representatives.
Whipple displayed many pieces of Hines’ work at the Mattatuck Museum in Connecticut, but none of the pieces were for sale at that time
He is now displaying up to 40 pieces at the Hollis Taggart galleries in Southport and NYC and all the pieces displayed will be for sale. An art curator estimated he could make ‘millions’ off the whole collection, with the wrapped pieces estimated to go for $22,000 and the drawings for $4,500
‘This public installation was meant to raise awareness of the terrible condition of the monument, and to help raise money to clean and maintain the arch. The sculpture stood as planned for ten days,’ Whipple wrote on Instagram.
‘Hines is really New York’s wrapper,’ Falk said.
The Washington Square Arch was also the first clue as to who Hines was for Whipple, who had been looking for an F. Hines – the signature on all the paintings except for one, which was signed with his full name, Francis Mattson Hines.
‘[The Arch] was the same type of fabric that most of the paintings had stretched around them, and in which every sculpture was wrapped. There were also tons of fabric rolls still in the barn,’ he wrote on his website.
Who was the New York Wrapper Francis Hines?
Francis Mattson Hines, 96, was born in 1920 in Washington DC and lived in New York City and Watertown, Connecticut throughout his life.
He attended the Cleveland School of Art – which is now known as the Cleveland Institute of Art – before he served in the US Army Corps of Engineers in World War II. Following the war, he moved to New York City and began working as a commercial illustrator, while also painting as a hobby on the side. He began building his career in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan.
By the 1960s, his personal artistic flow began and he started receiving attention as an artist, according to Hollis Taggart. In 1965, he debut his first solo exhibition at the Smolin Gallery on 57th Street in the city.
Around the same time, he moved to Watertown, Connecticut, where he converted a barn into a studio.
His wrapped art was shown at the Stewart Neill Gallery and the Vorpal Gallery – both in SoHo – in the 1970s and 1980s. His work stayed at the Vorpal Gallery until it’s closing in 1997. The gallery is now located in San Francisco.
After the closing, Hines’ work largely fell out of public view, although he was still creating art in his Connecticut studio.
He was most famous for wrapping the Washington Square Arch in 1980. He was invited to wrap the structure in 8,000 yards of white polyester fabric by New York University representatives and local civics groups in a campaign to raise funds to restore the arch, which had been covered in graffiti. It was described as ‘a giant bandage for a wounded monument,’ according to Hollis Taggart, a gallery that will feature some of his artwork between May 5 and June 11.
The wrapping was quite the undertaking as it needed 23 people to help stretch and crisscross the giant pieces of fabric into a geometric design.
This particular work was honored during the 50th Anniversary of Art in the Parks – which is run by NYC’s Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Agency – in 2017, the same year Jared Whipple, of Waterbury, Connecticut discovered hundreds of pieces in an abandoned barn.
The Arch is now considered one of NYC’s top 10 public art installations.
Although the greatest wrappers of all time goes to Christo and Jeanne Claude – who wrapped the Arc De Triomphe in Paris – Hines is considered New York’s wrapper, as he was the only one to ever wrap buildings in Manhattan. He became know for his large-scale endeavors, according to Hollis Taggart.
The artist considered his ‘building wraps’ as ‘larger forms of what I do in the studio.’ He became the first artist to wrap his painting and rolls of the polyester material were found in his barn.
He would paint on paper with hardpoint pastels and then mount the work to a wooden board to give it structure. After that, he would stretch the fabric tightly across the canvas, just like he did with the buildings in New York.
Hines’ artwork was known as expression and his fascination with cars was clearly present.
‘The artist was inspired by the many cars abandoned after crashes near his Manhattan studio on West Street. He salvaged parts and incorporated them into sculptural works…by wrapping them in his signature synthetic fabric,’ Hollis Taggart said.
Many of his car parts and wrapped paintings were a part of a series known as the Hoboken Autobody Series, which he painted from 1983 to 1986.
He also explored other types of fascinations, including the convergence of humans and machines in his Urban Icon and Mutagenesis series, which was painted between 1986 and 2016.
Following his death in 2016, Hines left behind two sons, who live in Florida and New York. Whipple contacted them about the pieces, but they gave him permission to keep and sell the work.