‘Galleries Were Selling Paintings in the Dark’: Flooding Imperiled $400 Million in Art at a Hamptons Fair and Shut the Event Down Early
Everyone had to evacuate the Southampton fair early.
The weekend’s heavy rains forced the early closure of the Hamptons Fine Art Fair at the Southhampton Fairgrounds.
Flooding caused by the rainfall, which measured between three and five inches according to the local office of the National Weather Service, was “impinging on electrical” components in the fair’s tents, Ryan Murphy, Southampton Town public safety and emergency management administrator, told Patch.
“The whole tent has gallery lighting, so there’s cabling all over over,” executive director Rick Friedman told Artnet News. “Fire marshals told us that for the safety of everybody we had to shut down and turn off the electricity.”
The forecast for Sunday had always called for rain, but the intensity of the deluge caught fair organizers by surprise.
“The rain started in the early afternoon, but by 2 p.m. it was pouring so much that we couldn’t hear ourselves talking,” exhibitor Emmanuel Fremin, owner of New York’s Fremin Gallery, told Artnet News in an email.
“It was an ‘act of god’ kind of thing,” Friedman said. “It was a torrential downpour like I haven’t seen in decades. The roads in town were basically closed. But nothing at the fair was damaged, because the walls were fine and there were no leaks from above.”
The fair closed three hours early, with an orderly evacuation—other than a rouge opera singer—and dealers had to unexpectedly leave their wares in the facility overnight.
“We had maybe $400 million of products in the building, so we got the police department in there and we quickly hired armed guards to secure the premises,” Friedman added. “The next day, the sun came out like nothing happened and everybody came back and got their stuff.”
“The smell of mold was intense the next day when we were allowed to pick up the works from our booths,” Fremin said.
The fair, now in its fourth year, had a record 140 exhibitors and record attendance of more than 12,000 visitors before organizers had to pull the plug.
Among the other highlights were a 50 million-year-old crocodile fossil, nicknamed Max, unearthed in Wyoming and on view with Green River Fossil Company of Logan, Utah; and a booth honoring the 50th anniversary of the death of Pablo Picasso from Shapero Modern of London which was the largest-ever display of the artist’s work in the Hamptons.
Sales continued down to the wire, even as the rising waters spilled into booths.
“After we had to turn off the lights, there were actually galleries selling paintings in the dark. I couldn’t believe it. People were buying the works and walking out with them,” Friedman said. “M.S. Rau from New Orleans sold a $5.5 million Picasso over the telephone during the rainstorm!”
See more photos of the flooding below.
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