How To Tell the Three Hamptons Art Fairs Apart
Not all East End fairs are created equal.
The Hamptons have long been a land of plenty—a place for New York’s elite to relax, socialize, and eat lobster away from the pressures of city life. And as with most other affluent cities, a crop of art fairs have recently sprung up. While a far cry from Frieze or Basel, ArtHamptons, Art Market Hamptons, and Art Southampton garner attention and attendance largely due to the fact that not much else is happening in the art world in the middle of July.
Of course, in the midst of all the sun, sand, champagne-soaked celebrations, and often decidedly mediocre art, it can be tricky to differentiate between the three fairs. Also, they all have some combination of the words “Art” and “Hamptons” in their names, which is extremely confusing. So, here’s your handy guide to figuring out which art fair you’ve stumbled into, based on factors like quality of liquor sponsorship, the presence of food trucks, and whether or not there are famous people around. Oh, and art, too.
Edgy Art: If you see art that could be classified as “edgy”, insomuch as that’s a thing in the Hamptons, you may be at ArtHamptons. Last year’s edition featured an exhibition by SPRING/BREAK directors Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly entitled “quote Bushwick Bohemia unquote,” which poked fun at the fair’s ongoing theme of “Hamptons Bohemia” and at the idea of “Bohemia” in general as a fleeting state that’s typically over before it’s begun. Despite this stab at subversiveness, it seems safe to say that 90 percent of the fair’s attendees have never been to Bushwick, never plan to go there, and just stopped by the fair to maybe find a nice piece for the dining room. Art Market, known for its army of Brooklyn-based food trucks, also maintains a slight edge, although we’re not sure how much of that has actually to do with the art.
Lower-Mid Market Works: If the prices of the works don’t make your jaw drop to the floor, you may be at ArtHamptons. Touting pieces largely in the $2,000–30,000 range, the fair is known for secondary market works that don’t require a lot of thinking—in subject matter or price. Despite the occasional aforementioned gesture toward coolness, the bread and butter of this fair is accessible, uncomplicated artwork. If this sounds like a bad thing, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. After all, it’s the beach, do you really need to be intellectually challenged, or can you just sip some chardonnay and enjoy your canapes?
Big Name Artists: At the other end of the price spectrum lies Art Southampton. Though only in its third year, the fair has established itself as the largest and most high-end of the Hamptons fairs. With pieces regularly climbing into the six-figure range, last year’s sale of a Botero sculpture for $400,000 proved that despite the laid back location and the perceived lack of “serious” collectors, there are still plenty of visitors with money to burn.
Celebrity Sightings: This isn’t to say you’re guaranteed to see celebrities at any of the fairs (we hear they all hang out in Montauk now, anyway). But where the expensive art goes, the celebrity clientele tend to follow, so if you find yourself standing next to Leonardo DiCaprio (or more likely, a Real Housewife), you’re probably at Art Southampton, and you’ve likely wormed your way into the VIP Preview somehow. Add to the mix the fact that the Watermill Benefit, one of the most buzzed-about social events of the season, falls on the same weekend and you may want to keep your iPhone camera at hand. It’s also possible you’re at ArtHamptons, where Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong fame) participated in a talk last year. Art Market, for its part, was visited by Jon Bon Jovi.
Liquor Sponsorship: While Art Southampton boasts sponsorship from Prohibition Distillery, Art Market appears only to have Perrier, purveyor of carbonated water for very fancy people, listed as a beverage sponsor. The most hilarious beverage sponsorship clearly goes to ArtHamptons, which lists Balls Vodka as a participating sponsor. We look forward to requesting a “Balls on the rocks, please” while attempting to maintain a straight face—and, a few hours into the VIP preview, calling out for “A shot of Balls!”
A Random Political Endorsement: Art Southampton has been lucky enough to somehow acquire the dogged support of Congressman Tim Bishop, who penned this letter, in which he expressed his gratitude for the fair’s addition of “a new chapter to the rich cultural heritage of Eastern Long Island by showcasing the finest international contemporary and modern art.” It remains unknown whether or not the other two fairs have garnered any type of political support, but we would suggest they work on it.
“Hamptons Chic” Attire: While the other two fairs have left guests to flounder through the guessing game of what to wear, ArtHamptons has shouldered some of the burden. They request that VIP Preview attendees don attire that is “Hamptons Chic,” which they kindly define for us as “optional seasonal sport coat or blazer & slacks / dress shirt, casual button-down shirt / optional tie / open-collar or polo shirt.” No word on what to wear if you happen to be a woman, but for the normal folk planning to attend the regular fair days, “smart casual” should cut it.
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