Jane Freilicher looked very stately, seated at the Tibor de Nagy booth last Saturday, surrounded on all sides by her iconic oil paintings: poppies, peonies, flowering cherries. She posed calmly for photographs, shook hands with admirers, smiled graciously at the passersby—a queen in her court. Her retrospective, "Near the Sea: A Sixty Year Retrospective" was on view at ArtHamptons 2014, which took place in Bridgehampton from July 10th to the 13th.




The fair's founder Rick Friedman—a collector himself, notably of Abstract Expressionists of Freilicher's generation—insisted that art collecting is now part of the Hamptons' cultural fabric; it's a point of pride, de rigueur for the vacationing elite. "I think that it's part of the everyday vocabulary of Hamptonites. It's accepted—you must have a painting on your wall, you must have some fun, interesting, colorful art. Whether it's a big name or it's decorative—you have to have something."




It certainly seemed that way, judging from the crowds surging through the tent erected on the Sculpture Fields of Nova's Ark. (A polo game took place there the next day—a little spectacle for the art appreciators and Anglophiles in the bunch.) An initial sweep of the tent yielded a few familiar faces: Warhol's portrait of Joseph Beuys, prints of Alex Katz's bleak, pastel subjects, and a few Lichtensteins wedged amid the rows and rows of booths.


Cecile Plaisance, Alerte (2014) at Envie d'Art's booth Cecile Plaisance, Alerte (2014) at Envie d'Art's booth


The scene was international; galleries from Germany, England and France were represented, as well as plenty from Korea. Lee Ufan, the subject of a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2012, had a lovely painting—mottled blue latticework stripes, swirled on a white background—at the Pyo Gallery booth. Based in Seoul, Pyo is part of Korea's Gallery Association, an organization funded by South Korea's government to promote Korean Art internationally.




And if the scope of ArtHamptons extended well beyond the cramped quarters of the New York gallery scene, it's because, well, we weren't in New York. Friedman describes the fair as "collecting as a low-impact sport." (I noticed he was wearing jeans). And he's right—the summertime ambiance and bucolic locale had leavened the ponderous air of the usual Chelsea haunts. Indeed, they weren't even represented—no Gagosian, no Zwirner, no Hauser & Wirth.




It's possible that this distance from the city—geographic and cultural—was reflected in the work on display. The Pop Art figureheads were mixed in with several Hamptons galleries, like RJD in Sag Harbor. The photorealist works by Andrea Krowcha and Wang Xiaobo were, in the opinion of Gallery Director Eve Corio, a "solid investment—this isn't any passing trend." Farewell to the Conceptuals and Relationals that preside over the New York art arena! And one celebrated guest at ArtHamptons was even a Long Island resident—the artist Tom Dash. An alumnus of Richard Prince's studio, he's lifted lessons from his legendary master: appropriation, winking allusion, bold and daring pop collage. In the Mark Borghi booth, Dash had mounted his recreated punk posters (Black Flag) and several Warhol-inspired pieces—boxes with Andy's instantly-recognizable flower paintings and reproductions of the Car Crash multiples. An homage or a disembowelment, one couldn't quite tell.


Artist Tom Dash in Mark Borghi's booth Artist Tom Dash in Mark Borghi's booth


But the fair ended, rather poignantly, with an award presented to avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson. A fixture of the Hamptons art scene (and a looming eminence in the international art circuit), Wilson was named the 2014 Arts Patron of the Year for his work with the Water Mill Center. His speech closed out the fair, casting an enigmatic glow over the proceedings—he seemed to lodge aesthetics back into the marketplace, reminding all who listened that the goal of art is to ask "What is it?"