2011 artMRKThamptons – Bridgehampton
Summer art fair yeilds a large network
Anthony Japour (AJ) is an independent curator, private art dealer and owner of AJ Japour Gallery. The gallery deals in contemporary art with a focus on the Chinese Contemporary Art Movement and its relationship to the pillars of Western Contemporary Art. Since 2003, AJ has produced numerous art exhibitions and installations in Miami and South Florida. In addition, the Gallery’s secondary mission is to support organizations dedicated to the health, education, and welfare of children. AJ has served on the Fine Arts Board and the Cultural Arts Council of the City of Miami Beach.
In a meeting some years ago with the president of the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Harvey Fineberg, I wanted to take some notes but didn’t have a pen on me.
“Harvey”, I said, “I’m always out of pens because I’m always giving my pens away.”
He looked at me with a smile and said, “Friends are more important than pens.”
And so it was, as I traveled to take part in the inaugural artMRKThamptons art fair in Bridgehampton, New York with the incredible generosity of my friends Eric von Kürsteiner & Anthony Roncalli who were my gracious hosts and made their freight company and construction team available to me for my voyage into the Hamptons art scene.
In what was billed to be an elegant art fair in a boutique-like setting, artMRKThamptons art fair delivered in a sophisticated fashion. Set in the heart of the Bridgehampton Historical Society grounds in the center of “downtown” Bridgehampton (the gateway between Southampton and East Hampton) the Fair organizers could not have picked a better location. Convenient for collectors and galleries alike, the art fair certainly did impress. The exhibition was divided in three separate tents allowing for a bit of a breather between viewings.
Three Miami-based galleries participated: Frederic Snitzer Gallery, 101/Exhibit, and my own AJ Japour Gallery. Snitzer Gallery and 101/Exhibit displayed large-scale oil paintings of their premier artists including Jose Bedia and Charles Pfahl. The colors along with gold and silver leaf in a Pfahl work entitled Metamorphosis, 1980 were brilliant and made a strong impression; its size and strength immediately brought to mind Claude Monet’s La Japonaise, 1876 which I recalled from my days at Harvard visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
The work we showed by Wang Qingsong, I love my home, 2009 caused a bit of a sensation with its depiction of a group of people all in a king size bed together. Qingsong recently had a solo exhibition at the International Center of Photography in NYC – the first for a living Chinese contemporary artist. The less sophisticated viewer was preoccupied with trying to figure out how many people were in the bed while the more sophisticated viewer enjoyed the particulars of the work and the connection to Preschool, 2002 showing how quickly artists from China are evolving.
Even for the seasoned art collector, attending an art fair can be visually over-stimulating. My approach is to take the exhibition in bite size pieces rather than devouring the whole show in one long visit. I enjoy discovering a few new artists that are doing something I consider novel and innovative. Such was the case for Foley Gallery who devoted an entire wall to Andrea Mastrovito, with a mixed media diptych entitled Love me tender, 2009 composed of a series of animals in a forest fantasy made of collage, paper and analine applied on canvas. For Mastrovito, love is a treacherous cycle that begins with innocence, followed by a violent initiation (represented as death), and then begins again in a sort of beautiful rebirth. The cycle is conveyed via a large frieze so that each piece is a connected part of this narrative whole. Stunning!
Many of the booths had standout installations including RH Gallery with its combination of art + design including works by Jeff Koons, Hideaki Kawashima, Micah Ganske, and Atsushi Fukui; Nancy Hoffman Gallery which paired a painting by Joseph Raffael Blossoms and Sky, 2008 with a pair of ornate Joan Bankempler ceramic mosaic vessels; Boltax Gallery with glamorous paintings drawn from Alfred Hitchcock movies by John Abrams and sparkling gold paintings by Sylvia Hommert, and; the spare and minimalistic booth by Mallick Williams & Co with just three works in the entire booth by emerging artists Marco Zamora, Nicholas Forker, and Curtis Kulig beautifully installed by Alexa Coulton and Zev Eisenberg.
Art Fairs offer a great opportunity to network, meet and catch up with old friends and make new friends, too. At the kind invitation of my friend Eric Shiner, newly installed as the Director and Curator of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh (previously the Milton Fine Curator at the Andy Warhol Museum), New York art dealer Lillian Heidenberg and I were invited to a wonderful and intimate dinner at the home of artist Joseph La Piana who was recently featured in the Andy Warhol exhibit of the 2011 Venice Biennale, entitled The Venice Text Project on Isola di San Servolo in Venice, Italy. This site-specific installation was on an island formerly housing the Venetian Republic’s military hospital, and was curated by Eric Shiner. This work brought together the poetry of Whitman and Ginsberg, analyzing the American condition over the ebb and flow of time and a monument to lives lost and opportunities missed. We were all together to celebrate Eric Shiner’s new appointment and one of the dinner guests, Charles Bergman, CEO and Chairman of the Pollack-
Among the new friends I made were Lori Berke and Aileen Clark of NYC and Hamptons, who graciously invited me for cocktails after snapping up Hendrik Kerstens’ Paper Roll at the conclusion of the Fair’s festivities. Other attendees of artMRKT Hamptons who visited the booths were filmmaker John Waters; author Edward Albee; Miami-based artist Sheila Elias; Dr. Jonathan and Allison Mangot; art advisor Michael Sellinger; figurative painter Michael Costello of Boston & East Hampton; collector Elena Werner; New York City Real Estate developer Ziel Feldman; Artnet’s Gracie Mansion; Countess Elise Van Geick; NYC designer Robert Passal; the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Holly Phillips, Manhattan; art dealer Island Weiss; New Focus.com’s Meg Wendy; Fashion Library’s Founder Irene Albright; Inside the Actor’s Studio James Lipton; entrepreneur Eric von Kürsteiner and attorney Anthony Roncalli; Palm Beach collector and curator Beth Rudin DeWoody; philanthropist and publishing heiress Anne Hearst; publishing magnate Jimmy Finkelstein and his wife Pamela Gross and; registered nurse and founding member of the Twin Towers Fund, Judith Giuliani wife of Rudy Guiliani.
My trip to the Hamptons confirmed my view that the art world is ultimately about relationships – relationships between artist and collector, collector and dealer, artist and dealer, dealer and curator, and so on. In the world we’re living in today, art is a gateway to making your relationships more important and preserving the cultural heritage of our time.