The Hamptons and American art have a long and storied history.
Artists like Fairfield Porter refined a distinctive style of landscape painting influenced by the East End of Long Island back in the 1930s. In the decades that followed, Abstract Expressionists including Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, and Willem de Kooning moved out of New York City to the area, immersing themselves in its bucolic beauty and setting up homes and studios.
This artistic heritage endures to this day with a surprising number of contemporary artists calling the Hamptons home, as do institutions like the Parrish Museum and Guild Hall. In the past years, too, the Hamptons have experienced an explosion of galleries.
The White Room Gallery in Bridgehampton, co-founded by directors Andrea McCafferty and Kat O’Neill in 2015, was one of the first in the area to make a sizable impression, showcasing works by contemporary Pop artists such as Nelson de la Nuez, Russell Young, as well as artists influenced by street art such as FRINGE and Linda Zacks. The gallery also has a few photographers in the mix.
McCafferty and O’Neill believe strong community ties have been essential to the gallery’s success. The White Room has been voted Dan’s Papers best gallery every year since it opened—which, for Hamptonites, is as ringing an endorsement as one could want.
We caught up with McCafferty and O’Neill to hear about how the area has changed over the years and what’s next for their business.
The White Room Gallery opened in 2015. Andrea and Kat, you each possess over 20 years of experience in the art world. Why did you decide to open a gallery?
Art is so integral to the Hamptons, and given the fact that we are both artists, the odds of our paths crossing was pretty high. And once they crossed, a friendship and a mutual respect was born. A gallery was the obvious choice to harness our collective business acumen and creativity.
How has the art scene in the Hamptons transformed over the past seven years?
The art scene has steadily grown with more galleries and sophisticated collectors, but the real demarcation was Covid-19. The population in the Hamptons increased by about 90 percent for a few years, with people feeling more than ever the need to surround themselves with positivity, engagement, and beauty. Art embodies at least one, if not all three. Also, with the lockdown, there was a lot more time to shop.
Tell me about some of the artists you represent.
We represent a myriad of styles, whether it be in photography, painting, mixed-media, or sculpture. But for us, Pop art is an essential element of the gallery because of the nostalgia, vibrancy, and oftentimes humorous components it incorporates. Russell Young, Nelson De La Nuez, Craig Alan, Jane Waterous, Punk Me Tender, and Seek One are some of our more-lauded Pop artists, but we just signed a South African artist, FRINGE, who brings in motifs from Mad magazine and The Shining.
The Hamptons have a long and storied history in the arts. The gallery also showcases the work of several esteemed local artists. Can you tell me about them?
Giancarlo Impiglia uses color and a very distinct style to enact a playful social commentary. His work has been featured as part of the famous Absolut artist campaign. Bob Tabor captured the elegance of horses in polo matches for Ralph Lauren for years and has now added the ocean rhythms to his portfolio. Lynn Savarese, another local photographer, also explores water but in a more abstract and graphic fashion.
In the secondary market, we have Joe Stefanelli and Sasson Soffer, two famous artists from the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, and Charles Waller, a truly gifted local artist who we just exhibited in the gallery commemorating the one-year anniversary of his death.
Describe your collectors. Where do they live? How do they learn about your gallery?
We have garnered many international collectors from our online art platforms and from doing art fairs in the Hamptons and Miami. Domestically, about 50 percent of our collectors are from the Tri-State area. Though we are on Main Street in Bridgehampton, we are often a destination gallery with our sculpture garden as the landmark. Marketing, social media, and press coverage also expand our exposure. And then, of course, there are referrals and designers—two essential components.
What advice would you give a first-time collector?
Ask questions, learn about the artist, deal with a reputable gallery, but most importantly, buy something you love.
What lessons have you learned in your time running a gallery? What are you looking forward to?
Growth and innovation are as vital as working with the right artists. We are looking forward to the return of a glass half full world, one filled with embraces, handshakes, and appreciation of art and life.
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