Mechanic reaps windfall from art in Connecticut dumpster

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A trove of paintings and other artwork found in an abandoned barn has turned out to be worth millions.

Notified by a contractor, Waterbury auto mechanic Jared Whipple retrieved the dirt-covered pieces in 2017 from a dumpster containing materials from a barn in Watertown. Whipple later found out they were by Francis Hines, an abstract expressionist who died in 2016 at 96 and had kept his work stored in the barn, Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported.

Hines was renowned for his “wrapping” pieces, in which fabric is wrapped around an object. His art has been compared to that of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who became famous for wrapping installations around Europe, including the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Hines wrapped more than 10 buildings in New York including the Washington Square Arch, JFK Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, art curator and historian Peter Hastings Falk told the news outlet.

The hundreds of pieces of art retrieved by Whipple included paintings, sculptures and small drawings. Hastings Falk estimated the “wrapped” paintings can be sold at around $22,000 apiece and his drawings at around $4,500.

Whipple showed some of the pieces at a gallery in Waterbury last year, and recently decided to sell some of the art. He is collaborating with Hollis Taggart, a New York City-based gallery, on exhibits in New York and Connecticut in shows beginning next month.

Since finding the treasure trove, Whipple has researched Hines’ work and contacted the artist’s family, who, he said, have allowed him to keep and sell the art.

“I pulled it out of this dumpster and I fell in love with it,” Whipple told the news outlet. “I made a connection with it. My purpose is to get Hines into the history books.”

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