Fashionphile and Art Collector Lisa Perry Covets Vintage YSL While Carving Out Space for Women Artists and Her Granddaughters
We asked the founder of East Hampton's Onna House about the things she values most—in art and in life.
So much of the art world orbits around questions of value, not only in terms of appraisals and price tags, but also: What is worthy of your time in These Times, as well as your energy, your attention, and yes, your hard-earned cash?
What is the math that you do to determine something’s meaning and worth? What moves you? What enriches your life? In this new series, we’re asking individuals from the art world and beyond about the valuations that they make at a personal level.
Fashion designer and avid collector Lisa Perry has a uniquely fabulous talent for blending the realms of art, design, and architecture. This coming weekend, Perry will be showcasing her magnum opus—the seasonal launch of her East Hampton gallery space, Onna House, a gem of a Modernist home that Perry historically preserved and meticulously renovated, and which is now a permanent space for celebrating the work of women artists.
Opening May 27, “Pearls, Pills, and Protests,” brings together the works of four contemporary artists—Kelly Tapìa-Chuning, Lulu Varona, Michele Pred, and Jerelyn Hanrahan—in a striking exhibition that juxtaposes imagery and material traditionally associated with femininity and womanhood, including tapestry, embroidery, quilting, and beading, but which have been converted into striking symbols in defense of women’s rights through the artists’ personal narratives.
For Perry, Onna House and the exhibition have been a labor of love. She has devoted 25 years of her life to championing organizations devoted to women’s healthcare and the right to choose, and just as long to celebrating women artists, as well as those overlooked in the history books (Niki de Saint Phalle is a favorite). At Onna House, Perry has assembled the work of more than 50 women artists—and hopes her Hamptons venue becomes an essential destination for art lovers.
But Perry also enjoys taking time to celebrate and loves spending time with artists and collectors, but especially her granddaughters. And ever a fashionphile, she is still waiting for a 1965 Saint Laurent Mondrian dress to come up for auction. An art world trend she could do without? NFTs.
Recently, we spoke with Perry about what she values in art and life—and why.
What is the last thing that you splurged on?
The last thing I splurged on was an artwork for the Onna House summer exhibition opening of “Pearls, Pills, and Protests.” The piece is a 50-foot outdoor sculpture depicting a giant strand of pearls by artist Jerelyn Hanrahan. It’s a strong feminist statement in our exhibition, which highlights the work of four female artists fighting for equality.
What is something that you’re saving up for?
I’m saving up for the day that a vintage 1965 Saint Laurent Mondrian dress hits the auction block.
What would you buy if you found $100?
If I found $100 I would donate it to Planned Parenthood.
What makes you feel like a million bucks?
I feel like a million bucks when I connect a collector to an artist and they fall in love with their work.
What do you think is your greatest asset?
Being able to see the positive side of almost every situation.
What do you most value in a work of art?
I value the time, energy, and passion that goes into making a work of art.
Who is an emerging artist worthy of everyone’s attention?
I collect and show nearly 50 female artists at Onna House, and although many of them have been creating art for years, they’re often not well-known and might be considered “emerging.” I don’t play favorites; read all about the Onna House artists here 🙂
Who is an overlooked artist who hasn’t yet gotten their due?
Niki de Saint Phalle. Niki was a trailblazer in all areas….From creating the amusement park-sized Tarot Garden to a monumental sculpture of a woman that visitors could walk into through her open legs, to her work as an activist for social causes across climate change, gender, race, and reproductive rights, she made a significant mark. She was well known in Europe during her lifetime but her work was little seen in the U.S. until her final years. Niki was a brilliant artist and humanitarian and never got her due during her lifetime, which is still the case for too many women artists.
What, in your estimation, is the most overrated thing in the art world?
The NFT that sold for $69 million.
What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession today is Onna House: a midcentury architectural gem in East Hampton that exclusively showcases the work of women artists, designers, and makers. It reminds me of my childhood home in the suburbs of Chicago—which was recently demolished—so I treasure the fact that I was able to save this space.
What’s been your best investment?
My Pop art collection, which I started 25 years ago with my husband, Richard.
What is something small that means the world to you?
What’s not worth the hype?
What do you believe is a worthy cause?
Abortion rights and gun control. Women’s bodily autonomy is brutally under assault, and our country is equally plagued by gun violence.
What do you aspire to?
I aspire to make progress by advancing visibility for female artists in the art world.
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