It wasn’t necessary to go to the jammed opening-night festivities at ArtHamptons and artMRKT Hamptons to grasp that the fairs may have finally “arrived,” despite the continued lack of attention from A-list galleries and dealers.
That sense was just as apparent at the smaller events that were held in tandem with the Bridgehampton fairs, where a hint of that Art Basel Miami Beach cross-pollination, which has spawned a thousand satellites over the years, was in the air and could be a harbinger of what’s to come here in future years.
In one example, Cole Sternberg, a Los Angeles artist, has taken over an old farmhouse and barn on Wainscott Hollow Road in Wainscott for the month of July for an “all-encompassing installation.” He said on site last Thursday that he had not planned his installation to coincide with the fairs, but since they were happening anyway, it made sense to hold his opening the same weekend as the two early fairs and stay open through Art Southampton, which arrives next Thursday.
Mr. Sternberg has taken a holistic approach to the project, occupying a reputedly haunted house and remaking it in his own manifestation as “a moment in the sun,” the first project of ARTed House, a new company that promises to develop creative venues to present contemporary art.
Rather than dispelling ghosts, the artist invites the viewer first to the basement, an old and rather dodgy space with cement and brick walls and low ceilings. It is there, on a rough cement screen, that he projects a short film devoted to the last “performance” of Ray Johnson, a Neo-Dada, Pop, and Fluxus performance artist who dived off the Sag Harbor-North Haven bridge in 1995.
In the film, Mr. Sternberg is the author and the actor performing certain activities, some directly related to Johnson’s death and others not. A staunch environmentalist, Mr. Sternberg sets off a fire extinguisher in a stand of trees, a willfully destructive act that he chose to explore his own concerns about what humans are doing to their habitat. It is one scene of many as he traces a path from the house to Room 13 at Baron’s Cove Inn in Sag Harbor, where Johnson plotted his last act, to the bridge and then to the ocean, using a chalk stick along the way to mark his path.
When he is shown breaking wine bottles in the film in the same basement, the broken shards of the glass remain on the floor to tie the viewer’s present experience to the recorded journey. Also on view is a note on canvas that Mr. Sternberg has written to Johnson, alerting him to how things have changed since his death and other observations.
Upstairs, the mood is a little lighter but still carries Mr. Sternberg’s darker themes about the environment and the state of world affairs. The artist is known for his use of text in his work and the recurrent theme of “one day.”
“A lot of people take those words as aspirational and hopeful, but I’m actually thinking of something more apocalyptic, resulting from the fact that we can’t go on the way we are living without some kind of collapse,” he said.
Bearing the text are silk-screened tables, specially made wallpaper, paintings, and drawings. Neon is employed here and there in different rooms, and nooks are set up as thematic gallery spaces to show the artist’s paintings, prints, and installation art. Out in the barn, Eastern silk rugs are covered with special dye that he has painted on them. Almost everything has some relation to the sea, and much of it was created in a flurry of activity that only began in June.
At the time of the interview, Mr. Sternberg still had much to accomplish before the unveiling of the house the next day. He had been up most of the previous night and said he planned to spend some time during the party “in performance,” sleeping under a tree.
In a related event, William Quigley opened his studio, which is next to Schenck Fuel Services on Newtown Lane in East Hampton, for a show and auction titled “The Pleasurists,” and shared it with Ben Moon, an artist, musician, and D.J.
Mr. Quigley is known for his portraits of famous people such as Mick Jagger, Donald Trump, Ethan Hawke, and Audrey Hepburn. The show was promoted by a New York City public relations firm and had sponsors that included Mark Borghi Fine Art, which represents the artist, ArtScape at the Bradford Mill, Hamptons magazine, Russian Standard Vodka, Smokin’ Wolf BBQ, Zico Coconut Water, Organic Avenue, Pop Chips, and Talent Splash.
Like most high-octane art events this season, some of the proceeds from the sales were to be given to a nonprofit, in this case, Guild Hall. A performance of Mr. Moon’s “environmental, musical, and interactive” art piece, “ROKLYFE,” was also presented. The party started at 8 p.m. and went until midnight with a largely urban, arty crowd in attendance.
Glenn Horowitz Bookseller also expanded artMRKT Hamptons’ performance program with an installation of Adam Stennett’s “Artist Survival Shack” near the fair entrance on Main Street in Bridgehampton. In it, the artist planned to live off the land and what few supplies he had with him for the weekend, eating, sleeping, and bathing there for a 96-hour test run of a longer project he has planned later this summer.
These are the kinds of presentations that one takes for granted in Miami during Art Basel week but are signs that a shift is taking place in the overall apprehension of these yearly events here. The fairs have proven their marketability and staying power, after six years, in the case of ArtHamptons, and only three years for artMRKT, and those outside the immediate region are beginning to take notice.