This Year's Watermill Benefit Auction Offers Mysterious Robert Wilson-Marina Abramovic Opera Prop and More

Andrew Schoultz's "Just Do It (Made in China)," 2012
(Courtesy Eric Firestone Gallery)

Every summer in the Hamptons, the Robert Wilson-founded Watermill Center throws one of the must-attend parties of the Hamptons art season, its Big Bang benefit gala and auction. This year the dress code is simply "Pop," while the accompanying charity auction features an outstanding slew of works by Willem de Kooning, Shirin Neshat, Lola Schnabel, Paul Thek, Will Ryman, and even James Franco, to be sold off on July 28 in an auction conducted by Simon de Pury. The curious — or those who want to get the jump on the competition — can log early bids online through the Web site Paddle8.

In addition to the auction, some performance art, and much dancing, attendees of Saturday's benefits get a look at the Center's new Mike Kelley retrospective, "Mike Kelley: 1954-2012," organized in collaboration with the LUMA Foundation and curated by collector and scholar Harald Falckenberg (the show continues through September 16). Indeed, Kelley's energy presence subtly permeates the whole event this year. "Certainly the spirit and irreverence of Mike Kelley permeates throughout the auction and installations this year, but we tried to avoid overt references and we did not ask anyone to explicitly 'respond' to his work," Watermill curator and auction director Dmitry Komis wrote to ARTINFO. "Though you may find subtle nods here and there."

"My co-curator Noah Khoshbin and I were certainly thinking of Kelley when approaching artists and commissioning the summer installations," Komis added. "We felt, for instance, that a musical component was key this year (Kembra Pfahler and the Voluptous Horror Black will debut new songs and sculptures) and additionally we felt Paul McCarthy, given his long standing relationship with Kelley, needed to be represented by a singular statement, and I hope the audience will be surprised by the outcome."

There is also at least one surprise in the Watermill auction, an item from Wilson's recent opera "The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic." That particular piece, Komis said, will only be revealed during the sale on Saturday night — as if the art crowd needed another excuse to make the treck out to Long Island.

To see works from the Watermill's Big Bang benefit auction, click the slide show.