When the coronavirus pandemic forced Guild Hall to cancel its summer gala and auction—the East Hampton institution's most significant annual fundraiser—the artist Robert Longo stepped up. He quickly volunteered to postpone his own summer exhibition at the space, which reopened to the public by reservation in June, and spearhead a benefit show in its stead.
“The first thing I did was call a few friends to see if they would donate a work,” says Longo, who started with Cindy Sherman, Rashid Johnson, Shirin Neshat and Tony Oursler. “It caught on like wildfire. People started asking me if they could be in it.”
Opening on 8 August and remaining on view at Guild Hall through the end of the year, All for the Hall includes 60 artists with a connection to the East End of Long Island—attracting communities of artists since the late 19th century. The exhibition includes heavy hitters such as Laurie Anderson, Eric Fischl, Dorothea Rockburne, Ugo Rondinone and Kiki Smith, as well as less-familiar names who have not had much exposure, such as Kirsten Benfield and Jeremy Dennis.
All works will be for sale on the museum's website at below-market prices, starting at $500 up to $170,000, with net proceeds benefiting Guild Hall. “We wanted to make the works accessible,” says Andrea Grover, the executive director of the multidisciplinary center, founded in 1931. While the loss of its annual summer event would have been a huge financial blow, the benefit exhibition has the potential to bring in more funds than a typical gala and auction. “If everything were to sell,” she says, “there’s in excess of $1 million worth of art.”
Longo, who donated an ink and charcoal study of a swan's outstretched wing which is the only work being sold as an auction item, with a starting bid of $90,000, also looks forward to partaking in some of the exhibition's good deals. “I thought it would be really cool to have all these artists in the East End come together to support this institution that has been historically really important out here,” says Longo, who splits his time between New York and East Hampton. “I hope that will move other people to help Guild Hall.”