In a startling case of accidental discovery, an auto mechanic found several hundred works by artist Francis Hines in a dumpster outside the late artist’s studio in 2017. Tomorrow, 30 paintings and a sculpture will be on display in “Unwrapping the Mystery of New York’s Wrapper” at Hollis Taggart’s Southport Gallery in Connecticut. A smaller presentation will also be on display in Manhattan.
The works in question were being removed from the studio’s barn in Watertown, Connecticut, after Hines died in 2016 at the age of 96. The artist was well known in the 1970s and 80s for wrapping both his works and major city structures in strips of synthetic fabric. The most famous example is the Washington Square Arch, which Hines wrapped in 8,000 yards of white polyester in 1980, as part of an effort by New York University to raise funds for its restoration. But by the end of his career, Hines had fallen into near obscurity and his works were left to decay in the old barn.
Taggart says the new exhibition “captures Hines as an artist ahead of his time, as we have seen the continued dissolution of boundaries between art forms and dynamic combinations of materials.”
The treasure’s finder, Jared Whipple, who is selling the works, first heard about it from a friend hired to clear the studio. At the time, he thought they might work well as a Halloween-themed “haunted art gallery“, until he spotted a signature on the back of one of the canvases.
Whipple began tracking down the artist’s family and colleagues in order to continue her research into Hines’ life. Additional archival material related to Hines’ work, including photographs, video footage and drawings, has since been unearthed, some of which will be included in the exhibit. It was organized by Hollis Taggart director Paul Efstathiou and art historian Peter Hastings Falk, who helped Whipple with his research and put him in touch with the gallery.
Whipple soon realized that the collection could be worth several hundred thousand dollars. Twenty-three of the paintings in the exhibit, priced at $35,000, have already been purchased by avid collectors. Whipple plans to use the proceeds from these sales to renovate his Connecticut warehouse, where he will exhibit other works by Hines.
“The significance of the discovery was the four-and-a-half-year journey that I’ve been on,” Whipple said. “It opened up friendships, avenues and a world I never thought I was a part of or had such a deep appreciation for.”
See the works that will be included in the show below.
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