Dumpster Discovery at the Hamptons Fine Arts Fair
When Jared Whipple first got the call to discover a treasure trove of abandoned paintings that a friend of his had found while on a waste removal job in 2017, he had no idea it would lead to a life-changing intimate relationship with the artist who had died and left everything behind.
Whipple’s story of how he came to acquire hundreds of beautiful paintings by Francis Hines, and what he has done to seek out and defend the artist since his death, bringing his name out of obscurity and on the pages of the world’s most read newspapers and websites – as well as a function on CBS Sunday Morning in April — became a legend.
A selection of paintings by Hines will be exhibited with Hollis Taggart Gallery at the Hamptons Fine Art Fair, which has invited Whipple to show them here in Southampton next weekend, July 14-17. Less than a decade ago, when Hines was still alive, the now fashionable and desirable artist would have been turned away from exhibiting at such a prestigious event.
A forgotten artist found
“Francis lived in Watertown, Connecticut in the 1970s. He had a large farm with a few barns on the property,” says Whipple, who is from nearby Waterbury, explaining how a lifetime of the New York artist’s work ended up abandoned in a ruined barn.
Hines remained in Watertown until he finally moved to New York in 1978, Whipple adds, pointing out that Hines had an agreement to continue renting one of the barns for storage after moving to New York. “and every two years he’d just send a box truck full of work.
When Hines died in 2016, the 96-year-old artist had a few career highlights, including drawing attention to the packing of the Washington Square Arch in 1980, as well as installing a public piece at JFK airport and packing buildings in New York’s Lower East. Side, but these achievements have long since been forgotten.
“He had no recognition yet, no interest in the work, and his family was responsible for everything,” Whipple says, explaining that the artist had two sons who themselves had grown quite old by the time of Whipple’s death. their father, and neither of them had the inclination or the space to keep the collection.
Meanwhile, the barn owner was desperate to have the building cleaned up so he could sell it – something he had begged Hines to do in the years before his death.
“A few years passed and Francis never cleaned it. Now it was up to the family to do it, and it was such a big collection that wasn’t really stored the right way, and it was just overwhelming for them to try and move it somewhere else, or do something else with it, especially since it was never recognized,” Whipple says.
The family took what they could, what mattered most to them, and left the rest in the trash. That’s when Whipple’s friend invited him to take a look.
“It was hard to even understand what we were seeing, because there was so much art and it was so big,” Whipple recalls. “Fortunately for us, and for Francis’ sake, each painting was individually wrapped in this thick plastic,” he says. “The barn had all these broken windows. There were all these animals living there. It was almost a dangerous place inside the barn itself. It was a very difficult place to live,” he continues, guessing that was part of the reason the Hines kids didn’t try to do more. “But we’re blue collar, we’re serious guys, we’re skateboarders, I do a lot of building maintenance, so it didn’t bother us as much as it would have bothered anyone else.”
Whipple decided to collect all the work, which he later learned covered most of Hines’ career, from 1958 to 2016, and take it home. “Once we got them home, the first thing was to get them out of this plastic that was literally covered in animal droppings. We wore respirators and rubber gloves to open these things,” Whipple recalled. But as he began to unpack the pieces and found that most were in excellent condition, he was mesmerized.
“Just to bring them home and get them out of this old plastic, and catalog them, it took months and months of work,” he says, describing the daily effort he and his Uncle Scott undertook. , filling his almost 3,000 square foot warehouse/former body shop with paintings, drawings and sculptures, until the job was done.
With everything cataloged and stored, Whipple began to obsessively search for Hines, which was no easy task. Eventually, however, he found a book on eBay that Hines’ wife, Sandra, had published about the artist, and it revealed a lot about him and his life.
Who was Francis Hines?
“It was mostly about the Washington Square Arch envelope, but it also gave me a biography about him, it gave me who his family was and who his crew members were, and his friends, the work he did before the arc,” he says. “That’s when I really started going down this search rabbit hole,” Whipple continues, explaining how he found people in Hines’ life – including Hamptons artist Nick Weber who shared a studio and a close friendship with the older New York painter for years – and started to have a better picture of his life.
He also started contacting galleries, but none of them were interested until he finally found San Francisco artist and Vorpal Gallery owner Muldoon Elder, who had shown the work of Hines in the 1980s.
Elder put Whipple in touch with an esteemed art historian, Peter Hastings Falkwho helped rediscover the late North Fork painter Arthur Pinajian and also happens to be the chief curator and editor of an artist discovery group called Discoveries in American Art.
Falk offered to help, and with his approval and understanding of the work’s quality and significance, Hines’ legacy was about to change.
As Falk said CBS Sunday morning, “I was impressed, I was blown away by the originality I saw.” He also pointed out that in his opinion, Whipple’s collection was “worth well into the millions of dollars, once all is said and done”. Falk will speak as part of Unraveling the Mystery of New York’s Packaging: Francis Hines, a panel discussion on the artist and his work at the Hamptons Fine Art Fair on Friday, July 15 from 1 to 1:30 p.m.
The Hamptons Fine Art Fair is just the latest in a growing list of exhibitions featuring works by Francis Hines, the most recent of which nearly sold out from May 5 to June 11 at Hollis Taggart Gallery in Southport, CT, according to Whipple who says people bought 26 of the 30 exhibits.
And while the work is indeed excellent, most combining colorful pastels and stretched nylon fabric in stretched and sturdy compositions on Arches paper mounted on wood, it certainly wouldn’t sell out without Whipple and his efforts. – not to mention those sensational stories about his discovery.
The compelling story of a million dollar find
The title was made for internet clickbait. To paraphrase: “Connecticut Mechanic Discovers Art Worth Millions Abandoned in Dumpster” caught people’s attention and the story quickly went viral, despite the fact that those words, or versions of those words, somehow, were more self-fulfilling than immediately true.
Whipple, who doesn’t sound like an art expert, says while he was thrilled to draw so much attention to Hines and his work, he felt uncomfortable with the angle. of the story told – a story that began with the Daily mail presenting it in the foul language of dollars and cents, rather than the more nuanced account of an artist’s career resurrected after decades without ever receiving the recognition he deserved.
“They made it what I never wanted and I was against it,” said Whipple, a down-to-earth skateboarder and self-proclaimed blue-collar worker. “Once they got their hands on the price list, they turned it into this ‘art found in a dumpster worth millions’ story, and to me it was just…I I had a hard time accepting this title.”
But the story was actually true, even though the “millions worth” part came after he and Hines were thrust into the spotlight. It’s a telling anecdote about the subjectivity of art and the power of perception in a volatile market that can make or break artists based on a stroke of luck or the opinion of a supposedly important person. .
It is also, perhaps, a tale that could bring hope to all creative talents, working in studios, never getting their proverbial moment in the sun and suffering from the existential fear that one day they will reject this deadly reel only to have their work and legacy relegated to thrift store bins or, worse, forgotten in a dumpster.
Works by Francis Hines will be on display at the Hamptons Fine Art Fair July 14-17 at the Southampton Fair Grounds, 605 County Road 39. Get tickets and information on hamptonsfineartfair.com.