By Michelle Trauring
And then there was one.
Gone are the Julys of three competing, major fine art fairs on the East End. The first to cancel was Art Hamptons, the region’s first art fair, followed by Art Southampton — leaving only Market Art + Design still standing.
“Every art fair company operates differently. I think those two happen to be in a period of retrenchment,” said Market Art + Design Director Kelly Freeman. “You can see it in the mood of other fairs they’re operating, as well. We were able to absorb some of their best exhibitors and it’s exciting for us to produce a really wonderful product out there.
“Art that’s been made out east for the last 100 years has been such a huge part of the conversation,” she continued. “For us to operate in the space is an honor, and should be treated like one.”
Kicking off Thursday on the grounds of the Bridgehampton Museum, the seventh annual fair will feature 65 international galleries between two pavilions — each housing millions of dollars worth of art and design elements that range from $1,500 to $150,000, with outliers on both sides, Freeman said.
“There’s something here for everybody,” she said. “One thing people are really excited about is a gallery from Los Angeles — 101/Exhibit — is bringing a remarkable presentation of art by Larry Rivers. They manage his estate, so this is work people haven’t really seen. He’s one of the most influential expressionist artists who has, really, worked ever, and he is a big part of the Hamptons art community, or he was until his passing.”
While exhibitors travel from as far as Paris, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Tokyo to participate in the fair, local galleries and artists — such as Rivers — make sure they aren’t lost in the crowd.
“We’re working with RJD Gallery, Roman Fine Art, Janet Lehr Fine Arts, Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, to name a few,” Freeman said. “There’s this really lovely combination of what the Hamptons person is able to see walking down the street, and what they can find if they travel across the country and the world.”
Of the three fairs, Market Art + Design was by far Janet Lehr’s favorite, and will feature one of her youngest artists, 27-year-old Adam Handler, in this year’s Janet Lehr Fine Arts booth — which she would paint black if she could, the co-owner said.
“It would just be so Adam, even though he has such a strong sense of color,” Lehr said. “He has a bold vision and his mind is very fertile. There’s a certain sparkle; sometimes it’s best understood by seeing the work. Like any fresh young artist, he has his own vocabulary and he’s ever inventive. His art grows and grows and grows.”
They found one another when Handler was just 21 — the grandson of one of Lehr’s friends in New York who worked as a framer. The young boy had grown up on the studio floor, she said, seeing works by Matisse, Picasso and de Kooning.
As a child, he didn’t know he would be an artist, Lehr said. But, soon, it became obvious.
“He works with figures that morph from one to the other,” she said. “They’re not static, and there’s an excitement in that — not only for the viewer, but for the artist. He’s constantly inventing his forms and the relationship he has with them.”
Lehr will also curate a private room of American modernist paintings, including work by Milton Avery, John Graham and Charles Demuth, and finds that one of the Market Art + Design’s strongest suits lies in its combination of contemporary and modernist work, plus its inclusion of jewelry. The gallerist, who has participated in the fair on and off since its inception, said she isn’t necessarily surprised it is the last one standing.
“Maybe the other fairs were not necessarily looking to fill the needs of the Hamptons public, it’s hard to say,” she said. “No one likes to share the stage with galleries from far-flung places in the world that are not adding to the artistic experience, particularly, and are just paying rent for the spaces. They think they’ll make their fame and fortune by appearing in the Hamptons. But we’re a small community, meaning a small population base, and tight-knit. It’s hard to break into that.”
Market Art + Design will open with a VIP preview on Thursday, July 6, from 6 to 10 p.m. on the grounds of The Bridgehampton Museum. General admission will continue on Friday, July 7, from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday, July 8, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 9, from noon to 6 p.m. One-day tickets are $20 and $25 for a multi-day pass, or $35 to include the VIP preview. For more information, visit artmarkethamptons.com.