In 2020, world-class arts companies have flocked to the Hamptons. Are they in it for the long haul?

It’s much more than just a summer fling.

Two years later, blue-chip galleries and major auction houses rushed to set up shop in the Hamptons to do so Capitalizing on the enclave’s dense population of indefinitely decamped millionaires and billionaires, the local arts scene shows no signs of slowing down.

In the early months of lockdown, cities like East Hampton and Southampton began hosting summer-sized crowds well past the season. All the conveniences of city life—like top-notch hospitals and private schools—followed them there. And art establishments were not far behind.

The Hamptons offered dealers the opportunity to reestablish a physical point of contact at a time when most arts-related activities had gone virtual. but With the international scene back in full swing, the question arose: would these high-end arts companies remain?

The answer is a resounding and resounding “yes”.

“We just renewed our lease for three years,” said Marc Payot, President of Hauser & Wirth, of the Southampton space on Main Street, which opened in the summer of 2020.

The strength of the gallery’s programming is a testament to the importance of the site. This summer collection began with Ed Clark and Stanley Whitney, continued with paintings and sculptures by Camille Henrot, and ended with rarely seen works on paper by Luchita Hurtado. Hauser also just opened the first US outpost of Make, his initiative to showcase cutting-edge, handcrafted design, in Southampton.

Dealers’ continued commitment to the Tony enclave shows the long tail of 2020 in the way people view and buy art. The more flexible nature of the work, allowing clients more time away from the city, and the convenience of pop-up outposts have made them used to quality material following them wherever they go.

Harper’s Books East Hampton.

Megagallery Pace and Upper East Side dealer Per Skarstedt were part of the mini-cluster of art businesses that emerged in 2020. Now in its third year, Paces Hamptons Space is currently presenting Calor Universal, an intergenerational group show that brings together work by artists inside and outside the gallery’s program, including Baìrbara Saìnchez-Kane, Sonia Gomes and Heitor dos Prazeres. Skarstedt operates from a nearby gallery, which he snapped up on the recommendation of his friend and fellow dealer Christophe Van De Weghe.

“Gallery Hamptons remains an integral part of our business,” Skarstedt, whose summer schedule includes exhibitions by Georg Baselitz and Stefan Rinck, told Artnet News.

Skarstedt and representatives of many other traders declined to give information about specific sales that had taken place at the outposts. Still, veteran traders in the region say the new arrivals have given the local market a much-needed boost.

“It’s still fairly new, so we don’t necessarily know what it’s going to look like in five or 10 years,” said art dealer Eric Firestone, who first opened a space in East Hampton 12 years ago (he has two now) and also runs a gallery in the East Village.But right now it’s one thing, all the galleries are so busy and there are a lot more artists and curators than I’ve ever seen before. The whole landscape has changed, from Southampton to Montauk.” (The latter is the site of South Etna, a gallery and exhibition space opened last summer by art dealers Amalia Dayan and Adam Lindemann.)

Armani Howard, Untitled (2022) Image courtesy of the artist and Eric Firestone Gallery

Armani Howard, Untitled (2022) Image courtesy of the artist and Eric Firestone Gallery

When we reached out to Hamptons dealer Harper Levine two summers ago, he said that even before 2020, he was amazed that more galleries weren’t taking advantage of the area’s lavish acreage on a summer lease — which he said cost about the same as a major art fair.

“The Hamptons have always been about community,” says Levine, who has run a gallery and rare book store in East Hampton for the past ten years. “The beauty of summer is that people have more time for the occasional visit just to enjoy the breeze. Of course it’s possible to do business in this environment – ​​almost more easily than in a formal setting – but what I personally appreciate are the quiet moments with collectors and artists who may have withdrawn a bit from the glare of the city. ”

Until recently, there was a mysterious gap between the region’s concentration of ultra-wealthy people and the quality of its arts scene. This was reflected in the often patchy and intermittent presence of art fairs such as Art Hamptons and Art Southhampton, which were tracked for a few years and then disappeared from the radar in 2017. While there was no doubt that they drew crowds – as anyone who has endured the attendant misery of single-lane traffic would attest – there was skepticism as to whether foot traffic actually translated into solid sales.

Phillips held its first live auction at its Southampton premises last month (June 2022).  Image courtesy of Phillips.

Phillips held its first live auction at its Southampton premises last month (June 2022). Image courtesy of Phillips.

When both major fairs were canceled in 2017, smaller events such as Max Fishko’s Market Art + Design in Bridgehampton continued. It’s now called the Art Market Hamptons and the next edition (11-14 August) will be held in a new location at Nova’s Ark Project & Sculpture Park.

This year the Hamptons Fine Art Fair took place in Southampton from 14th to 17th July. Art dealer Alex Benrimon, whose gallery was participating in this edition, told Artnet News he sold several works by Jeff Koons, Julian Opie, Mel Bochner and Ian Davenport, among others. Prices ranged from $20,000 to $100,000. “Interestingly, collectors acquired works for both their primary residences and summer homes,” said Benrimon.

Deep-pocket auction houses are also committed to the area in the long term. Phillips and Sotheby’s now operate there year round. “The enthusiasm for our Southampton outpost has only grown since it opened almost two years ago,” said Jean-Paul Engelen, President of Phillips 20th Century Art.

The house held its first live auction in Southampton last month. Sales of the editions grossed $1.4 million, right in the middle of the presale estimate of $1.1 to $1.6 million. The auction house said more than 30 percent of the bidders were new to Phillips and a whopping 91 percent of the lots on offer were sold.

Sotheby’s is currently showing Her Voice, a retrospective by Cecily Brown, Hilary Pecis, Gertrude Abercrombie and others, inspired by Rebecca Morrill’s book Great women artists.

Christie's Gallery in Southampton.  Image courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s Gallery in Southampton. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Christie’s opened a seasonal store in Southampton last year, completing the hat-trick of the Big Three auction house. She is currently preparing to open a month-long private sale solo exhibition of works by Francesco Clemente from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Collection.

“Obviously things are more ‘normal’ now, but there’s always a sense of commitment to the culture in the Hamptons,” said Bonnie Brennan, president of Christie’s Americas. “It’s a constant.”

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