Dealers decamping to vacation spots to score sales
With the rich on the move, the galleries aren’t far behind
By Brook S. Mason. Web only
Published online: 05 August 2009
NEW YORK. Beaches, sea breezes and deep-pocketed collectors on holiday are luring some Manhattan dealers to set up seasonal outposts in the Hamptons, on the eastern shore of Long Island.
“I’d wanted a gallery in East Hampton for years but the rents were too high and I couldn’t get the location I wanted. But now with reduced rents, opening here in May was a no brainer,” says Bernard Goldberg, a dealer of 40 years’ standing.
These days, the recession has markedly changed the landscape where Jon Bon Jovi, Steven Spielberg and Martha Stewart summer alongside artists Chuck Close, Eric Fischl and April Gornik. Mansions linger on the market, while rents for prime commercial properties have dived. Rent for the new gallery Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts is in the $100-$125 per square foot range. “A year ago, the rents were $200 a square foot,” says Mr Goldberg, whose premises are just steps away from Hermès and other luxury boutiques.
His new quarters have already scored considerable interest, with a Noguchi 1926 plaster portrait bust, an Archipenko 1948 terracotta sculpture and a Charles Burchfield work on paper on hold, with one reserved by a southern museum and prices from $85,000 to $450,000. "So far clients are wealthy collectors from New York, Palm Beach, California and elsewhere," says Mr Goldberg. "The reaction is always the same. We didn't think we would find this quality in the Hamptons. On the other hand, our New York gallery is totally quiet, with sometimes one visitor a week, whereas here I have 20 to 30 clients a day."
Although the Scope Hamptons fair has been put on hold this year, ArtHamptons, from 9-12 July, picked up 68 dealers, a third more than last year. “We sold $20m in art last year and it was overwhelmingly not cutting-edge but modern and contemporary,” says Rick Friedman of the Hamptons Expo Group. But sales at the latest version of the fair were sluggish according to some dealers.
Catering to the contemporary art crowd can involve more than traditional gallery spaces. James Salomon, director of Mary Boone in Manhattan’s Chelsea gallery district, has his own seasonal project space, Salomon Contemporary in East Hampton: he describes it as “a warehouse in the woods”. “A large portion of the people I meet in the summer buy from me in the fall,” says Mr Salomon.
Ira Spanierman, whose Spanierman Gallery, founded in 1928, has sold American 19th- and 20th-century paintings to more than 40 museums, has boasted an East Hampton gallery for more than five years. “My collectors are there,” says Mr Spanierman, whose wife Helen runs the Long Island outpost, with a focus on Hamptons-based artists such as Betty Parsons and Jimmy Ernst.
Mr Goldberg, in contrast, is showing similar works as those in his Manhattan gallery. “We’re not looking to decorate with less serious work, but actually the same calibre pictures and decorative arts we have in the winter antiques show,” he says. On view this summer he has Edward Steichen’s 1907 oil Moonlit Landscape for $950,000 and a set of Frank Lloyd Wright windows for $1.2m
Other members of the trade aim to hit multiple vacation spots. “In the summer, New York is very empty,” says private silver dealer Alastair Crawford, who six years ago set up a gallery on the island of Nantucket, off Massachusetts. “I met three of my top ten clients there,” he says, referring to clients who spend more than $100,000 a year.
“Today you have to follow the rich, as the target audience is more mobile than ever,” he says. So rather than staking out a single gallery, Mr Crawford has opted for a series of “travelling trunk shows”. After participating in the Nantucket Antiques Show from 30 July to 2 August, Mr Crawford set up his wares at the private Westmoor Club on the island before moving on to the Hampton Road Gallery in Southampton in August. Yet the recession continues to cast a shadow and Crawford reports sales in Nantucket are down almost 60%. "But sales are stronger than in New York, where it’s probably the worst place to be at the moment as the streets are dead," he says.
Still, Mr Salomon insists that dealing in the Hamptons is not just about profit. “While yes, I make money from it, that’s not the goal,” he says. “This space is about ideas.”
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