It must be some measure of arrival when a fictional television series set in the Hamptons chooses your art fair to replicate on a soundstage in Rye, N.Y., for a titillating plot line. If the “Royal Pains” shooting schedule was just a week or two later, the crew could have had the real thing.
Those scenes were recorded just last week and next Thursday, ArtHamptons, the real fair the series based its fictional fair on, will open here in only its fourth year. It may be seen by the outside world to have already acquired an institutional status, but to those more familiar with the fair, it has had its share of growing pains, royal or not.
In one case, that has meant a former director of the fair splintering off to present artMRKT, his own art show, just a week later. Max Fishko, who with Jeffrey Wainhause started the new fair company, said he had different goals than his former employer. “They were trying to do everything under one roof and it was not successful. It spawned a parting of the ways.”
Scope Art Show, which brought the first of this type of fair to the South Fork several years ago, has not participated in this market since 2008.
Mr. Fishko has an impressive résumé for someone in his late 20s. His family has owned and managed the Forum Gallery in New York City for several decades, so he grew up in the business. He was at ArtHamptons for two years and had prior experience with other show organizers, such as David Lester during the first Art Miami fair and Sandford Smith, who produces most of the major art fairs at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.
Forum was a founding member of the Art Dealers Association of America, a trade group organized to promote standards of professionalism in the practice. As a result, Mr. Fishko is sensitive to the importance of having dealers with a long and respectable history in his show.
In its first years ArtHamptons had a healthy smattering of A.D.A.A. galleries in its line up, such as Forum, DC Moore, and Mary Ryan. This year, only June Kelly has decided to return. Mr. Fishko said that from what he had heard from those who declined to participate, returning this year “was not an option for them. There were too many compromises.”
For his fair, “we worked hard to present an interesting group with nothing to put people off or confuse anyone. At art fairs, while people buy different-size booths and lay them out differently, everyone looks the same. If a reputable gallery that works hard representing artists for a significant period of time is next to a fly-by-night dealer that does not have that credibility, the collector is confused and may buy something that does not have the same lasting value.”
Out of those A.D.A.A. members who exhibited last year at ArtHamptons, Mr. Fishko’s fair picked up Frederic Snitzer of Miami and his own family’s gallery. He also added Nancy Hoffman to his exhibitor list, which so far includes 27 galleries with space for a few more. His tent will be put up on the Bridgehampton Historical Society grounds surrounding Corwith House on Main Street.
Still, what ArtHamptons might lack in premier dealer recognition it makes up for in the approval of South Fork institutions. Its “cultural partners” include the Parrish Art Museum, Guild Hall, the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, the LongHouse Reserve, the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Ross School, the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, the Children’s Museum of the East End, and the Southampton Fresh Air Home.
Guild Hall and the Parrish as well as the Bridgehampton Historical Society will be the recipients of a portion of the daily ticket sales this year. LongHouse will be the beneficiary of proceeds from the opening night party.
Rick Friedman, who owns and operates ArtHamptons, will take his fair back to Sayre Park in Bridgehampton, but it will not be the gargantuan affair of last year. In a press release issued this month, the organizers stated in the second paragraph that this year’s “ArtHamptons will be a tightly vetted show, as the number of galleries will be reduced to 77 in order to provide fairgoers a more cogent, manageable viewing and art-buying experience.”
Mr. Friedman said in an e-mail that the fair was now the right size. “Last year we had 97, perhaps too many. This year we slimmed down to 77, which we think is a good number.” He said the size still offered a “wide enough selection to make it a compelling and nationally ranked show.” He said the fair rejected about 20 to 30 dealers this year, which cut into its profits but would “make it a fun and memorable art-viewing experience.”
There is a great deal of local participation in both fairs. Mark Borghi in Bridgehampton and Halsey McKay Gallery in East Hampton will participate in both. ArtHamptons will also include the Keszler Gallery and McNeill Art Group from Southampton, Nova’s Ark Project from Bridgehampton, Birnam Wood and Eric Firestone galleries from East Hampton, and Richard J. Demato Fine Arts and Tulla Booth from Sag Harbor. International dealers will come from Israel, Korea, Japan, Greece, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, China, and Finland.
ArtMRKT has Boltax from Shelter Island, Kathryn Markel from Bridgehampton, and Keyes Art from Sag Harbor. Mr. Fishko said that what will set his fair apart will be the curatorial element of the show. “We’re aimed for a younger dealer, a younger collector. . . . Fun and fresh is the right ethos for a show like this.” He added that those attending the fair will be able “to look at each gallery and say ‘this is why they are here.’ ”
Aside from the typical benefit preview party to be held July 14 with Southampton Hospital as the beneficiary, he is not padding the show with a lot of events, talks, or parties. He said anyone “can add a lot of bells and whistles to a show, but this is about content, not hype.”
ArtHamptons will open its show next Thursday evening with a preview party from 6 to 9. In addition, it will screen the film “Full Circle: Before They Were Famous,” featuring Ultra Violet and Taylor Meade, two of the “superstars” Andy Warhol made famous. They will be part of a panel discussion following one of the screenings.
There will be book signings with Ultra Violet, Mary Abbott, an Abstract Expressionist artist in her 90s who will receive a lifetime achievement award, and Russell and Danny Simmons, who will receive the arts patrons of the year award.
Peter Dayton will wrap a Volkswagen Touareg in his signature surfboard style, familiar to those who have seen his work displayed at Mark Borghi’s booths in previous fairs.
ArtHamptons will emphasize its photo galleries and present a talk by Ruben Natal-San Miguel, a photography consultant, who will walk through the fair with aspiring collectors and advise them on how to invest in the medium. There will also be a wine reception on Sunday with the cast of “Betty’s Summer Vacation,” the new play at the Bay Street Theatre. Attendees will have the chance to bid on a screen print by John Chamberlain to benefit the theater.
Both shows will be open all day Friday through Sunday on their respective weekends. Mr. Friedman said he expects 8,000 to 10,000 people to attend this year.
Each fair has a national operation. ArtHamptons produces similar shows in San Francisco, Aspen, and Houston. ArtMRKT presented in San Francisco this year and will be in Houston in the fall. Andrea Gurvitch, who is the public relations representative for ArtHamptons, referred to the new fair as a satellite to the more established fairs in those same markets. “We see ourselves as a major national show, with 70-plus dealers, and compare ourselves to an Art Miami, Art Chicago, artLA,” Mr. Friedman said.
Mr. Fishko said his first fair in San Francisco in the spring attracted 13,000 visitors. He hopes for a similar response here.