Art Southampton gearing up for a strong second round: Since its inaugural outing last summer, the fair has doubled in size, from 46 galleries to more than 90, making it the largest of the three Hamptons fairs.
Not that it’s necessarily competing, according to Nick Korniloff, the director of Art Southampton as well as its much bigger parent in Florida, the 23-year-old Art Miami. “Everybody’s asked me the question, ‘Did you come out there to put the other two fairs out of business?’” he says. “And quite frankly, my answer is no.” Instead, he insists, he merely saw an opportunity in the Hamptons to cultivate a collectors market similar to the one he fostered when he ran art fairs in Palm Beach, another affluent vacation spot turned art destination.
As a longtime veteran of the Florida collectors scene, Korniloff says he enjoys the relative calm of Long Island’s version. “There’s a lot of interaction and socializing with the dealers, and it’s not as frenetic as it is in Miami,” he says, noting that the more intimate atmosphere can actually stimulate sales.
Cynthia Corbett of London’s Cynthia Corbett Gallery, which is showing at Art Southampton for the second time, echoes Korniloff: “Wonderful, interested art buyers and appreciators in a beautiful setting with an incredible ambience,” she says of the locale. “An added bonus is that a lot of these people who have extremely busy, pressured, important lives are relaxed when they’re in the Hamptons.”
Corbett has been focused on the Hamptons market for several years, but she says that her past success at Art Miami, where she’s exhibited regularly since 2009, was also a big factor in the decision to show at Art Southampton. Indeed, the Florida fair’s strong history seems to have been a draw for many gallerists, including Dick Solomon of Pace Prints: “We’ve done Art Miami successfully for a number of years, and I trust these guys,” he says. “They put on a good show.” For its Hamptons debut, Pace is exhibiting a solo show of monoprints by the Amagansett-based artist John Alexander, whose work is also on view at Guild Hall in East Hampton through July 28.
Asked what makes Art Southampton work, Korniloff touts his organization’s commitment to showcasing international galleries, part of an effort to reflect “the globalization of the art market,” as well as the increasing international diversity he perceives in the Hamptons’ summer population. This year, the fair represents 11 countries outside the U.S., with 21 of its participating galleries coming in from abroad — including Tel Aviv’s Zemack Contemporary Art, which opted for Art Southampton after a positive experience at December’s Art Miami, according to gallery director Leore Yael Ohad. “This is definitely an art fair that is different from all the other ones,” she says. “We’re definitely coming back.”
Corbett, who shows at both ArtHamptons and Art Southampton — and puts together entirely different booths for each — says the two fairs have distinct characters. “ArtHamptons probably has more varied work in terms of size, quality, and genre; their high end is quite good, but there’s more of a mix in the mid-range and lower-value works,” she says. “Art Southampton, being a very blue chip fair, is a more curated program.” At Art Southampton, her gallery is presenting new photographic works by British artist Tom Leighton alongside the United States debut of Nicolas Saint Grégoire’s Yves Saint Laurent–inspired neon light sculptures.
Korniloff attributes his fairs’ success to a simple formula: “Galleries represent artists, we represent the galleries. And the best way to represent the galleries is that we represent the highest quality in the best ambience and in the best location during the best period of time,” he explains. Still, given that Art Southampton is scheduled at the tail end of a marathon fair season, it stands to reason that even the most eager art aficionados might be burned out by the time it rolls around. As Solomon puts it, “I think the biggest single question is, Is the purchasing power commensurate with the interest to purchase?”
But Korniloff remains confident that the final weekend of July is “the most important weekend in the Hamptons,” citing an impressive lineup of social and cultural events that he believes will draw art-interested clientele to Southampton, both from the East End and the overall tristate area — including Kelly Ripa and Donna Karan’s Super Saturday fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and the Watermill Center benefit, both scheduled on Saturday, July 27.
It does seem Art Southampton is here to stay, judging by the fair’s growth as well its founder’s determination. “The greatest fairs take time, and we’re heavily invested,” says Korniloff. “It’s a long-term commitment to developing a marketplace. You take your time, but you do it right.”