Gallery owner Mark Humphrey: A Remembrance

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Mark Humphrey. Courtesy Mark Humphrey Gallery.

By Annette Hinkle

For 40 years, the Mark Humphrey Gallery was a Southampton Village fixture. Established in 1980 by Mr. Humphrey and his partner, Larry Rundie, as a purveyor of posters, prints, miscellaneous art objects and framing, the gallery shifted focus several times over the decades and carried works by some of the most successful artists of the last half century, including the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Alex Katz, Ross Bleckner and many others.

But by the time the Mark Humphrey Gallery moved off Main Street and into a space on Jagger Lane in late 2016, the majority of the artwork it sold was contemporary, abstract pieces painted by Mr. Humphrey himself.

On June 11, Mr. Humphrey died of complications from cancer at The Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Westhampton Beach. He was 71.

Throughout his long career, staying abreast of the latest trends in art and design was a vital component of Mr. Humphrey’s business acumen and in a 2016 interview with The Press, he explained it was one of the reasons that his gallery reinvented itself several times over the years.

“We survived 36 years because we watched what was going on,” Mr. Humphrey said at the time. “We have reinvented ourselves more times than you can imagine.”

Despite the occasional shifts in focus, one of the key services Mr. Humphrey consistently offered at his gallery was professional framing, which he said nobody was doing on the East End back in 1980 when he founded the business. Framing was a skill he had acquired prior to moving to the South Fork while working at A.I. Friedman, an art supply store in New York City, so Mr. Humphrey began offering the service to his clients here early on and it remained an integral part of the gallery in the decades that followed.

“For the first five years, I did framing on my dining table at home, and then was going to work,” Mr. Humphrey said. “We were dealing with very high-end work.”

Back in 2016, Mr. Humphrey said that his favorite part of his job was visiting people’s homes to see where they needed artwork, and working with them to find just the right piece, which often ended up being a work painted by Mr. Humphrey himself.

“No other artists get to do that,” he said. “I meet the people buying the art. I have good clients, and that’s the exciting part.”

Among Mr. Humphrey’s clients were high-end designers and decorators on the East End and in New York City, and he cultivated a major art consulting business over the years. It was familiar territory for Mr. Humphrey, who grew up in Oklahoma, where he was surrounded by art due to the fact that his father worked as a museum director and was an art consultant for Williams Energy Group.

“My Dad was driven to educate the people of Oklahoma about contemporary art,” noted Mr. Humphrey, who received his BFA from Syracuse University and his MFA from Ohio University, and spent a summer in between at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.

Not long after finishing his master’s degree, Mr. Humphrey was living back in Oklahoma when his father invited him to accompany him and his mother to New York City for a weekend-long art buying trip for Williams. Mr. Humphrey agreed to go, but he told his parents he would not be returning to Oklahoma at the end of the weekend and was, in fact, moving to New York.

Three years later in New York, Mr. Humphrey met Mr. Rundie, who had a home in Southampton, and soon, he began visiting the East End on weekends. When Mr. Rundie suggested they start their own business in Southampton, Mr. Humphrey quickly agreed.

“Larry said, ‘Why do something for someone else? Why don’t we do this for us?’” Mr. Humphrey recalled.

And so they did. Mr. Humphrey’s signature works have appeared in numerous exhibitions, galleries, residences, museums and magazines. He is survived by Mr. Rundie, his partner of 42 years, and his sister Marsha Humphrey and her husband Steve Jasinski of western Massachusetts.

Mr. Humphrey supported The Innocence Project and fostered dogs for the Southampton Animal Shelter. Donations in his memory may be made to the animal shelter or East End Hospice.

A memorial service will be planned for a later date.

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