International Dealers Make Art Southampton Worth the Trip

Art Southampton, the last and arguably most highbrow of the three Hamptons art fairs, certainly lives up to reputation in its third year. At the VIP preview on Thursday night, predictably well-heeled guests sipped Ruinart champagne and nibbled on lobster sliders in an expansive pavilion on the grounds of the Southampton Elks Lodge. But before we dive into the art, let's get all your undoubtedly burning questions out of the way. Are there Graff diamonds being sold and displayed around the necks of lanky models? Yes. Is there a cushy VIP area sponsored by Maserati? Of course. Is a Chanel surfboard for sale at a booth sponsored by Hamptons Magazine? I couldn't make such things up. But beyond the fluff and the Jeff Koons plates (oh yes, there are Koons plates), the are some surprises waiting to be stumbled upon.

The large size of the fair, which boasts 80 galleries, allows for the beach-themed paintings and Warhol tributes to have their space without overshadowing the humbler, more interesting contributions of smaller galleries. New York's Heller Gallery, which focuses on contemporary sculpture made of glass, presented quietly exquisite offerings like Steffen Dam's 9 Jars, a tribute to the beauty of nature and science. Taglialatella Galleries, also New York-based, brought an array of prints and cutouts by Swoon—a smart move, as her incredible Brooklyn Museum installation is still fresh in the mind of anyone who has seen it. It was also pleasing to see a New York Academy of Art booth filled with the works of recent grads, many of whom are quickly making their way in the art world and would be wise investments for in-the-know collectors.

While New York, Miami, and Hamptons-based galleries unsurprisingly dominate the fair, many of the strongest booths are from international dealers. London's Archeus/Post-Modern delivers works by favorites like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Rob Pruitt, along with a set of Damien Hirst Superstition plates, which as plate art goes, are pretty spectacular. Basel's JanKossen Contemporary knocked it out of the park with Suh Jeong Min's The Old Memory II, a composition of small paper scrolls that begs to be studied from every angle. Hovering somewhere between painting and sculpture, the South Korean artist's work refers to the pieces as "prayer works," believing that if he says a prayer of thanks while creating them, they will bring positive energy to their eventual resting place. Beside it, Troy Simmons's Genesis II, III provides a similarly architectural perspective, using materials like concrete and aluminum to create what he calls a "re-incarnation of the Arte Povera genre."

Other highlights include neon light-encrusted mirrors at gallery nine5 that beg for the taking of a selfie (ask yourself: did you really attend the fair if you don't leave with a new profile picture?), sugar craving-inducing works at Baker Sponder Gallery, Keszler Gallery, and Gallery Valentine, and a small sculpture garden in the front of the pavilion.

Art Southampton continues through July 28.