Blaze at Art Dealer’s Amagansett House

Construction sparks suspected in Gagosian fire
A fire that was initially blamed on construction-related activity at Larry Gagosian’s Further Lane, Amagansett, house Tuesday evening, caused extensive interior damage from water and smoke. A recent aerial view showed the art dealer’s sprawling compound. Hampton Pix Photos

    A fire Tuesday night at a Further Lane, Amagansett, house owned by the art dealer Larry Gagosian left a kitchen, media room, and upstairs bedroom badly damaged, according to Amagansett Fire Department officials, but did not spread to the rest of the house.
    The iconic 11,000-square-foot house was designed by the late Charles Gwathmey of the architectural firm Gwathmey Siegel for Francois de Menil, an heir to the Schlumberger oil-equipment fortune.
    “The fire supposedly started with a guy soldering pipes,” said Mark Bennett, the Amagansett fire chief. According to Chief Bennett, approximately 50 firemen, including a rapid intervention team from East Hampton, and a tanker from Springs, responded to the 8:48 p.m. call. In addition, Springs firemen were on deck at the Amagansett firehouse in case more help was needed.
    Dwayne Denton, an assistant Amagansett chief in charge of the interior firefighters and Chief Bennett’s second in command, said it took 20 to 30 minutes to bring the fire under control. “Not an easy fire, not that there really is such a thing as an easy fire. There’s a long driveway and we had to remove a drop ceiling to get to the flames.”
    “The problem was finding the fire,” said Chief Bennett. “It started in a wall and made its way up to the space between the first and second floors.” Firemen had to attack the flames from both floors by cutting their way through the ceiling and floor. Chief Bennett said that access to the house was difficult because of “artwork on each side of the driveway” near Further Lane.
    The house, known as Toad Hall, was designed by Mr. Gwathmey in 1978 and completed in 1982. According to a 1988 New York Times article, it “made architectural news as a house that summarized the career of a distinguished firm, and [. . .] helped mark a turn in modernism, when its hard-edged simplicity and formalism relaxed.”
    Mr. de Menil sold the house in 1988 to Edgar Bronfman, Jr. Mr. Gagosian bought it in 1990. The residence features a three-story greenhouse.
    Mr. Gagosian represents such artists as Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, Julian Schnabel, and John Currin. A call to his New York gallery seeking comment was deferred to Mr. Gagosian’s press agent who had not responded as of late Wednesday afternoon.
    While firemen reported that the estate’s caretaker was at the house during the fire and had removed some artworks from the rooms that were affected, this information could not be confirmed by press time.
    Chief Denton said he was not sure whether any of Mr. Gagosian’s art collection had been damaged by the fire, although he noted that the house sustained water damage, particularly in a basement media room, as a result of his men having successfully extinguished the fire.
    Chief Bennett praised the firefighters’ work. “The guys did a really good job. The fire was contained to three rooms.” Nevertheless, the house is not habitable because the electricity has been turned off, he said.
    “We covered the electronics and a flat-screen TV with tarps. We knew there was an art collection inside. I can’t tell you exactly what happened to it — there was extensive smoke through the house. I was thinking about the fire and my men.”