Hamptons Art Fairs Pull in Buyers With Small Works and Breezy Themes
“I have an idea of what will do well out here,” said art dealer Mark Borghi, standing by his booth on the opening night of ArtHamptons at the Sculpture Fields of Nova’s Ark. Behind us, the space was filled with cheerful work by Carole Feuerman — including a sculpture of a woman in a bathing suit, seemingly in reverie, hugging a brightly colored beach ball. “Actually,” he said, referencing the fair as a whole, “this is a departure for us.”
A quick glance at the fairgoers at ArtHamptons — walking the aisles in their madras jackets and aqua-hued wrap dresses, seemingly present as much for the opportunity to kiss, swill cocktails, and sample the Swedish hors d’oeuvres with their peers in leisure as to look at the art — revealed a crowd drawn to artwork that is a touch more soothing, sporty, and accessible than other fairs, and a drop less challenging.
Two years ago, Mark Borghi Gallery, which normally trades in secondary market works by some of the more cool and cerebral artists — like Georg Baselitz and Alexander Calder — brought works by Willem de Kooning. But, according to Borghi now, that may not have been the best fit. “Collectors that we normally sell to don’t come to this fair,” said Borghi. “If you’re going to buy a $2-million Franz Kline, you don’t come to this fair. But,” he added looking back at the sculptures of the swimmers, “there’s a market for this type of work.” At this point, Borghi had already closed a deal on “Pin Up,” a large sexy work by Tom Dash superimposing an image of a nude pin-up model on photos of race cars, for $18,000. Price is another factor he considers when making his selection for the Hamptons. “For this particular fair and lots of these [similar] fairs, it’s a $2,000 to $10,000 range,” said Borghi. “In other words, it’s not that difficult to think about.”
While this year’s booth fare may have been out of character for Borghi, he wasn’t alone. Everywhere, at both ArtHamptons and artMRKT Hamptons, which also opened Thursday at the nearby Bridgehampton Historical Society, gallerists were bringing out their fun stuff — and it was selling.
Young Contemporary, a gallery from Seoul, Korea, made its first sale within the first two hours after ArtHamptons opened to VIPs, parting with four small paintings by Lee Yu Min. At $300 each, the summer landscapes — each featuring a fluffy white dog doing human summer activities like surfing or walking down the beach in a bikini — struck just the right note in terms of levity and price. While Zin Helena Song, an art student from Long Island University who was manning the booth, wouldn’t mention any specific sale details, she did say, “It’s been good.”
London-based Cynthia Corbett Gallery also had the mood of the Hamptons in mind when choosing what to display. “We brought a lot of color with us,” said gallery manager Celia Kinchington. “We’ve got Andy Burgess here with Palm Springs, blue skies, pools. This has been really popular. A lot of people have been stopping to look at it.” A sculpture by Andrea Stanislav featuring two glittering, intertwined horse heads slowly rotating on a mirrored pedestal (appropriately titled “Wild Horses”) had also drawn quite a bit of attention, almost but not quite hooking a Southampton veterinarian at $18,500. But while these were at the higher price range of the wares on display — the most expensive work here was priced at $55,000 — lower-fare items were also grabbing attention, including a dozen of Nina Jun’s confectionary ceramic sculptures. Priced between $900-3,000, the sculptures, which somewhat resemble party balloons, had attracted quite a bit of interest. “Loads of people were looking at those,” said Kinchington.
At first glance, the curating duo behind the “quote Bushwick Bohemia unquote” exhibit — Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly — seemed to be challenging casual fairgoers with their installation, which featured a faux-construction site wall with the words “Vacant Lot” spray-painted over it. Their show title pokes light fun at the overarching theme of the fair, “Hamptons Bohemia.” “There’s something dark about romanticizing any artist utopia or any geographic location that carries the ‘bohemia’ moniker,” Gori told ARTINFO, “because it inevitably means that there won’t be artists there soon.” Inside the booth are examples of Joe Brittain’s minimalist-looking “pulped book” works — including a couple of pieces for which he consumed and spat out an entire book before putting the whitish mash in a frame. Gori and Kelly also brought work they thought would go over well on the East End. On the outside of the booth, a painting of a woman on the beach holding a beach ball had a distinctly Hamptons-esque vibe. And while the work in the booth ranged from $500-15,000, they were also selling works in boxes, at a “conceptual stoop sale,” all going for less than $1,000.
At artMRKT Hamptons, the decidedly hip event whose opening night soirée was hosted by the tony Norwood Club and offered curated food trucks for hungry fairgoers, Adam Stennett was one of the standout installations: quietly painting in solitude in an outdoor shed that he built and will be inhabiting for the weekend as an endurance piece, living off of only the things that he packed for himself. Indoors, Stennett’s art dealer, Glenn Horowitz Booksellers, hawked small limited-edition items like sardine cans and bottles of water. These mementos from his survival stunt were selling for $100 apiece, each one signed and dated.