Day in the Life: Art Advisor Heidi Lee Komaromi Brought Us Along as She Scoped Out the Hamptons Fine Art Fair
Komaromi got down to business, scouring the fair for overlooked historical gems for her clients.
When New York art dealers and collectors decamp for the Hamptons each summer, art fairs are not far behind. The annual Hamptons Fine Art Fair (July 13–16), which calls Southampton home, is one of the most prestigious. The Sag Harbor-based art advisor Heidi Lee Komaromi (@heidileekomaromi)—who’s currently acquiring works for a major investment bank—brought us along as she sized up the offerings and caught up with old friends before dashing off to a gala. Read on to find out more about her nonstop day at the fair last Friday.
I wake up to my furry alarm clock, my new Boston terrier puppy, and head into my son’s room to be his alarm clock. I prepare for my 20-minute morning meditation with Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, which leaves me feeling confident and ready to start the day.
I get ready for a day packed with art. I plan my visit to the VIP vernissage at the Hamptons Fine Art Fair (HFAF) in Southampton benefiting Guild Hall. Later, I will head to the Parrish Art Museum’s “Midsummer Magic” gala honoring artists Hank Willis Thomas, Eddie Martinez, and Sam Moyer.
I commence my final review of art lists from attending galleries to place first dibs on works for clients. With over 130 galleries and 500 artists at the fair, I need to be selective! I am bound to find a few gems for selected client collectors. I engage my trusted intern Abby Li, a recent graduate of the Courtauld Institute, to help compile my lists. I keep my eyes peeled for choice works by undiscovered artists, and quickly learn I will not be disappointed.
In previewing the gallery presentations, to my delight I spot great works by Hedda Sterne, an active member of the New York School of painters; Miriam Schapiro, a feminist artist who broke away from the Clement Greenberg aesthetic; and Fay Lansner, a leading second-generation Abstract Expressionist artist. I am overjoyed to find works by Rozeal, a re-emerging contemporary African-American artist who opted out of the art world for several years and has made a recent comeback. Her cross-cultural narratives comment on cultural, racial, and sexual identity.
I schedule a meeting with the fair’s founder, Rick Friedman, who launched HFAF after seeing the potential with his previous ArtHamptons fair. Then I shift gears to spend time editing a new proposal for an important client with offices throughout the United States. They are looking to refresh their existing art collection, so I’ve been researching emerging talent. I’m really excited to suggest some newer names for them, such as Sable Elyse Smith, Pacifico Silvano, and Anthony Akinbol.
I discover a diamond in the rough: Outstanding paintings by Diana Kurz (b. 1936) at Lawrence Fine Art! Kurz was born in Vienna to a wealthy Austrian Jewish banking family. In the late 1900s she and her family were forced to flee across Europe before settling in the U.S., where she ended up fortuitously studying with Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, and Mercedes Matter. Because women at the time were discouraged from becoming painters, Kurz tucked her life’s work behind a false wall in her studio…until a chance meeting led the gallery to her and a discovery of a lifetime.
I plan to stop by the booth of Julie Keyes Gallery, which will be featuring contemporary artists with a link to the Long Island’s East End—a nice reminder that the Hamptons has played a critically important role for the creation and patronage of art dating back to the middle of the 20th century, starting with the Abstract Expressionist movement. Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol were all Hamptons artists—and the list goes on.
I arrive at the HFAF’s VIP vernissage to find the entrance is mobbed, the lines are long and the parking lot is already full. I see valet attendants redirect disgruntled VIP card holders to distant lots, but it’s all for a good cause. The opening benefits Guild Hall, the East End’s newly renovated gem of an arts and education center that just reopened with a major solo exhibition of Renee Cox.
The Alamo in Southampton? It’s not a mirage! Honoring the legacy of the late Southampton sculptor Tony Rosenthal (1914–2009), his landmark 15-foot-high rotating sculpture, Astor Place Cube (aka Alamo), is unveiled outside the fair. The iconic cube was publicly installed at Astor Place in Manhattan for decades. Alas, it reminds me of the bygone days of my youth spent trekking to art happenings below 14th Street. When Rosenthal designed the sculpture in 1967, it was accepted as the first permanent contemporary outdoor public sculpture by New York City.
I continue into the tented fair and am immediately beholden by an arresting crimson painting by Norman Lewis at the renowned Bill Hodges Gallery. I am bowled over by the curation of top-notch, historical African American artists in the booth, starring Stanley Whitney, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and more.
Lynne Drexler, an incredible Abstract Expressionist artist who worked in isolation in Maine for years, is the talk of the evening. I chat with dealers to discuss her work and meteoric rise in the art market. There are several oils on canvase in pristine condition at the fair.
Exposing the next generation to art! My son and I admire striking works by Christina Quarles and Jordan Casteel at Lex Weill. I continue on my tour and make a point to stop by any galleries I have worked with in the past. The art world runs on relationships!
I am astonished at how large the fair is—spread out across three connected tens. As I make my way through the maze, I meet up with my client and friend, Jennifer Rubenstein. After conducting due diligence on two paintings, I successfully negotiated the sales.
Meet up with New York-based artist Francesca Schwartz and other clients looking for appropriate works for their Hamptons homes. At Upsilon Gallery, we spot a pair of amazing Willem de Kooning drawings titled Untitled (Two Women). The asking price is $495,000 for both, and I see that they are dated 1954—just a year after he began his iconic “Women” series.
I take a family selfie with a painting by an artist recently added to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and go back to conduct more business. A client tells me about a unique curatorial opportunity—a new urban community park in Manhattan!
I stumble upon a beautiful oil painting by local artist Claude Lawrence, who was friends with Jack Whitten, Frederick J. Brown, and Robert Blackburn in his earlier days. The piece was previously owned by Lyn and E.T. Williams, visionary art collectors based in Sag Harbor, New York. How I pine for one of Lawrence’s works—so bold, gestural, and vibrant!
After collecting a few restaurant tips for my trip to Paris next month—I can’t wait to see the art collection at Cheval Blanc in Bernard Arnault’s LVMH building—I meet up with the renowned Brazilian curator Marcello Dantas, who is curating the next Desert X in Saudi Arabia. The evening was generously sponsored by Matriark founder Patricia Assui Reed, who curated a roundtable of arts professionals to discuss innovative art projects for the region.
I do a Wonder Woman-style outfit change and drive to the Parrish Art Museum’s midsummer gala, where I catch up with Hamptons-based friends and clients. My husband and I enjoy a night under the stars with artists and patrons and share a table with Martin and Jean Shafiroff, and artist Nina Yankowitz, who has a must-see show on view at the museum. She took over an entire gallery to offer alternate perspectives for experiencing the art of Tara Donovan, Rashid Johnson, Mary Heilmann, and Vija Celmins. Spotted! A Lee Bontecou drawing in the galleries. I wrote my master’s thesis on her work.
Last goodbyes under the giant disco ball before we head on home. I throw my swag bag down and fall into bed with my handmade flower head wreath still on. All in a day’s work!
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