BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY — There's something about the air on the eastern tip of Long Island that makes even the most hardcore New Yorkers relax just a little bit.
"It's like camp," a hungry fairgoer noted as we waited in an interminable line to pick up some messy barbecue. Indeed, it did end up feeling something like that, as we sat down to eat at a communal table on the lawn of the Bridgehampton Historical Society during last night's opening preview of ArtMRKT Hamptons, the second art fair of the season targeting the rich of the New York vacation spot (the first being last weekend's ArtHamptons). Something about the summer air and finger food lent itself to mingling with the various artists, collectors, and dealers that had gathered — and before we knew it we were making new friends and debating whether or not putting an artists work on Pinterest is a copyright violation, just like we would have at (art-law nerd) summer camp.
As the night wore on, things became more typical of an art fair party. Hundreds of people packed into the fair tent, swarming the booths of the 35 participating galleries, champagne in hand. The organizers estimated that turnout will double this year, and, indeed, it was a much different vibe from the sleepy, almost empty rooms of the inaugural 2011 event.
There was an aura of see-and-be-seen, as crowds filled the aisles and dealers chatted one another up. The exhibitor list includes many local Long Island galleries, and a number of smaller outfits based in Manhattan. Bigger names and more exotic dealers are New York's PPOW, Florida's Mindy Solomon Gallery, and Arte Nova, all the way from Florence, Italy. Despite the very apparent preference for the bar over the art (it is the Hamptons in July, after all), everyone was in good spirits.
"I think it's terrific," said dealer Nancy Margolis, who is participating for the first time this year. "It is well organized, the space is open and airy, the booths are well set up, and I like the smallness of it. The large fairs are overwhelming for people." She did admit that it wasn't a sales-heavy evening, but she expected quite a few people to come back in the later days of the fair.
(Art)Amalgamated's Gary Krimershmoys — who is showing, among other things, Frances Goodman's series of vajazzling photos (look it up if you don't know what that is) — remarked that he had put several works on hold, and expected people back over the weekend with their spouses. While it's no Art Basel Miami Beach, where collectors reach for their wallets within minutes of the opening, how does it compare with the more geographically and seasonally analogous ArtHamptons? One observer noted that artMRKT seemed younger and edgier, with more of a focus on emerging artists.
Max Fishko, artMRKT's co-founder and managing partner, took issue with the word "edgy," preferring the word "fresh." In the very process of choosing galleries, Fishko said that he and his partner, Jeffrey Wainhause, tried to come up with a fair that was small, very contemporary, and "gave people a few reasons to say 'Shit, there's some good stuff here.'" In that way, the pair definitely succeeded. As ARTINFO stood waiting for food, with a little over two hours left in the evening preview, one bottle blonde turned to another and asked how long the tent would be up. "I would really like to come back and look at the art," she said.
To see images from the 2012 ArtMRKT Hamptons, click on the slide show.