The inaugural Hamptons Fine Art Fair comes to Southampton Village this Labor Day weekend and will serve as a celebration for the explosion in the art scene on the East End. It’s also a welcome return to the East End art and social scene after all art fairs and exhibition were put on hold last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of attendees are expected to pass through what the producers of ShowHamptons have labeled “the summer’s most prestigious art fair,” at the Southampton Arts Center (SAC), and the event will feature art work by 70 select national and international galleries, with 51 in-person booths and several virtual booths in 2D and 3D.
“This is a very sophisticated audience — the audience that will come, they’re art savvy, they’re open to discovering new artists, so this a fair about discovery in a sense,” said Rick Friedman, the fair’s founder and executive director. “Not only do we have the blue chip artists, the Andy Warhols and the Arshile Gorkys, but we also have some wonderful pieces from some up and coming artists that are really well respected.”
Over the years, Friedman has come to know quite a lot about the art fair business. Nearly a decade ago, he created ArtHamptons, the East End’s first fine art fair — conceived by Cindy Lou Wakefield — which he sold in 2015.
Now, he’s presenting the inaugural Hamptons Fine Art Fair, which will feature works by more than 400 artists with over 1,000 pieces, totaling over $100 million in art available for immediate acquisition. Prices begin at around $10,000 with the “sweet spot” somewhere between $50,00 and $100,000. The fair will focus on several themes, including African American artists, emerging female artists and contemporary abstract female artists, and international artists from around the world.
“It’s really amazing that we can pull all of that together in downtown Southampton Village,” Friedman said. “You have artists and galleries from all over — from Russia, to Cuba, to Brazil, to India, and it’s just special to be able to put on this show here.”
SAC on Jobs Lane is in the middle of what Friedman describes as an art hub for art lovers. He adds that it is the perfect spot for this year’s fair.
“Southampton is becoming a little Mecca for the art scene where every other storefront on Jobs Lane is an art gallery,” he said. “So we’re really excited to put on this celebration for the art scene that the East End is experiencing these days.”
The Hamptons Fine Art Fair will transform SAC — the original home of the Parrish Art Museum — into a series of galleries in the main building along with several air conditioned pavilions, a sculpture park and a VIP lounge. In addition, a Pollock Pavilion will be created where fair goers will have the opportunity to visit a replica of Jackson Pollock’s studio in Springs, complete with the famous paint-stained barn floor.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to produce a show on these incredible grounds with the Southampton Arts Center,” Friedman said. “Fairs are mostly at convention centers, but here, look where you are, you’re on Jobs Lane and Main Street — it doesn’t get better than this.”
The Hamptons Fine Art Fair will also be the first East End art fair to present both an in-person as well as a virtual reality component for people who may be hesitant or unable to attend the Southampton event in person. In 2020, the pandemic led ShowHamptons to create its first all-virtual art fair with over 2,000 pieces of artwork from 90 International galleries in both 2D and 3D virtual reality booths. The Hamptons Fine Arts Fair will incorporate this same technology to feature 70 galleries in the virtual reality version.
“Using a software called artPRESENT on your computer, you can actually go into the booth, walk around, the art can talk to you and you can click to get all the information about the piece,” Friedman explained. “It’s just like you’re at the fair, but you’re online in the comfort of your own home.”
The Hamptons Fine Art Fair is one of the first such events to return to the area since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Friedman said, adding that it serves as an exciting opportunity to re-introduce people to the art world in the wake of a global shutdown.
“The art world is watching very closely to evaluate whether art fairs are coming back, whether people are going out and spending money,” he said. “So it’s sort of a critical time as people will watch us very carefully, not only around the country but around the world.”
With COVID-19 still in mind — and on the rise in many parts of the country — masks will be mandatory at the event regardless of vaccination status.
The Hamptons Fine Arts Fair runs Thursday, September 2, through Sunday, September 4, at Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton. The opening night preview, on Thursday, September 2, is from 4 to 10 p.m., benefits SAC and tickets are $150 for entry beginning at 4 p.m., $125 for entry at 7 p.m. The fair runs Friday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. General admission tickets are $30. Visit hamptonsfineartfair.com for tickets and details.