Discovering New York’s Wrapper

The Art of Francis Hines

Beginning on Friday, April 22, the Mattatuck Museum will exhibit a series of works by famed New York City artist Francis Hines that were discovered in a dumpster by local skateboard enthusiasts Jared Whipple and George Martin.

More about this exhibition

These works, originally discovered in 2017 by Jared Whipple of Waterbury and George Martin of Naugatuck, have garnered recent international media attention when they were reported to potentially be worth millions. The two men share the adventurous spirit of “American picking”, which is what led them to an abandoned barn in Watertown, CT that was being cleared of its contents by a new owner. When Whipple and Martin arrived at that barn, they were shocked to see a lifetime’s worth of artwork, all signed “F Hines”, being thrown out. They decided that the collection needed to be saved from the landfill and returned with trucks to haul the work away to store it until they could find out the story behind the work and its creator.

After countless hours of research, phone calls, and emails Whipple learned who Francis Hines (1920-2016) was, what his artistic accomplishments were, and decided that the work needed to be seen. The works, originally exhibited at the Mattatuck Museum in September 2021, include paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Hines. This installation at the Mattatuck will feature a complete series of five studies created for the famed Union Square Park (NYC) public installation project by Hines, four of which were not included in the original exhibition at the Museum.

Whipple devoted the three years following the discovery to sharing Francis’ work, life, and story with galleries, scholars, and museums. He connected with friends and relatives of the artists and received their permission to keep the artworks he recovered. His journey ultimately led him to art historian and appraiser, Peter Hastings Falk, who visited Jared to view the rescued work. Falk determined that “Hines was unique among American artists because his abstract sculptures and paintings were the first to express the dynamic energy that occurs within the tension of materials under stress. Hines’ wrapping style differed significantly from that of his more well-known peer, Christo, and he was the only artist to ever wrap buildings and monuments in New York City.” Falk believes that Hines “is an artist who simply cannot slip through the cracks of art history forever,” and so he agreed to join Whipple in his quest to bring recognition to the artist and his work.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Hines lived and worked in both NYC and Watertown, CT. He gained recognition as an artist for several large-scale public installation works, most notably his famous wrapping of The Washington Square Arch in 1980. Commissioned by New York University as a way of raising awareness for the terrible conditions of the Arch and to help raise the money needed to restore it, Francis wrapped the iconic monument in 8,000 yards of polyester fabric, temporarily turning the Arch into a giant fabric sculpture. A book documenting the project and documentary, which aired on PBS during the early 1980s, brought Hines recognition, but by the time of his death his accomplishments had been all but forgotten and his name was mostly unknown until his canvases were rediscovered and rescued from the dumpster by Whipple and Martin in 2017.

“I am excited that this series will be on view at the Mattatuck,” says Whipple. “I want my community to be able to enjoy these works by Francis that I’ve spent so much time researching and trying to bring attention to. This might be their only opportunity to see them on public view.”


A collection of the recovered works will travel to Hollis Taggart Gallery in Southport, CT for an exhibition titled Francis Hines: Unwrapping the Mystery of New York’s Wrapper, on view May 5-June 11, 2022.