Update: Due to concerns over COVID-19, Tripoli Gallery (tripoligallery.com) in Wainscott has postponed the March 14 public opening reception for its exhibtion “Surge” featuring the work of Alice Hope. The gallery will temporarily be open by appointment only with the work scheduled to remain on view through April 12. Visit the gallery website and social media platforms for information or call 631-377-3715.
The unassuming warehouse sits back from Montauk Highway in Wainscott. Accessed from a side road, it helps to know where you’re going.
In short, it’s not exactly where you would expect to find an art gallery, yet for Tripoli Patterson, owner of Tripoli Gallery, that’s exactly the point.
In early March, Patterson closed the first exhibition presented in the space, one featuring 50 artists which had been running since Thanksgiving weekend. Titled “What Have We Done,” in many ways, the theme of the show also reflected Patterson’s own thought process about the gallery’s new direction after having operated for a decade in Southampton Village.
“This space is brand new, my house is right there,” said Patterson pointing just to the north. “It’s crazy. I started organizing this show a month before we opened. I got the keys on November 18 and this show opened November 30.
“I piled it on,” he said of the large number of participating artists, some of whom are world-famous and others who are exhibiting in a group show for the first time. “I said I’m just going to do it. It made so much sense.”
The new warehouse in Wainscott is, in many ways, an ideal spot for Patterson and the types of artists he supports in his gallery. The space features four large bays fitted with garage doors (ideal for moving large works in and out), radiant heated flooring and ample wall space.
Plus, it has the look and feel of a working studio — in fact, these days that’s exactly what it has become.
On a recent visit, the far wall of the building was dominated by a massive work in progress which is currently being created by Alice Hope, Patterson’s first artist-in-residence. Hope has been commissioned by Art in Embassies to build an installation composed of hundreds of thousands of used can tabs and marine netting. Later this year, the piece will be installed in the lobby of the new U.S. Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique. This Saturday, Tripoli Gallery will host an opening reception for an exhibition of Hope’s latest work.
While he enjoyed his time at the Southampton space, in many ways, Patterson feels that the new warehouse gallery is much more aligned with his mission of building and connecting with the wider artistic community.
“I’m not a store and I don’t want to feel like a store,” he said. “When I was on Jobs Lane, it’s like I’m being placed in that category and people always asked ‘how’s business?’ But it’s bigger than that.
“This is a locally owned gallery by a young person showcasing art by people from here and people like [famed artist] Hiroshi Sugimoto. I’m doing that now.”
Patterson first opened his gallery on Jobs Lane in 2009, but in 2018 when the building was sold and his lease came up for renewal, he decided it was time for a change and moved out. He spent the next year without an official gallery space and rather than rushing, trusted his instincts in making the decision about what to do next. Being deliberate and measured in terms of finding his new location is a trait that served him well.
“Though I had left my gallery and I had a year gap, I consciously told myself I’m not going to be scrambling to find a new space,” he explained. “I said I’m going to relax, but I was looking.
“This space literally grew out of the ground.”
When Patterson saw the warehouse going up a few hundred feet from his home, he called the owner of the property and learned that the building did not yet have a tenant. It turns out that Patterson’s new landlord had his own artistic connections and had once stretched canvases for Willem de Kooning — an ironic coincidence in that de Kooning’s late daughter, Lisa de Kooning, was Patterson’s godmother and it was she who helped him sign his first lease for the gallery space in Southampton Village.
It turns out that many of Patterson’s experiences in the art world have grown organically through his network of friends and acquaintances. Though not an artist himself, Patterson, who was born on the East End and as a child, spent time in far flung locales such as Bali, New Zealand and Germany, grew up as an integral part of the artistic community thanks to his parents, Terry and Leonardo Patterson, who were both connected to the art world.
“My aunt was an artist, my mom painted and they all hung out with artists,” he said. “And being my dad was a pre-Columbian art dealer, he was in that world too, in a sense. With Lisa de Kooning as my godmother, I remember being at Willem de Kooning’s studio and told to not mess with the old guy.”
Though he didn’t pursue a degree in art or art history at the college level, Patterson feels that his exposure to artists and diverse cultures at a young age led him to cultivate a wider perspective and broad tastes in art.
“I was lucky to have teachers like Julian Schnabel who helped me a lot,” he said. “He gave me his insight. I was able to select mentors as opposed to picking a class and using a teacher as a mentor.”
And everywhere he goes, Patterson has a knack for meeting artists in the most unlikely of places. For example, Angelbert Metoyer, who has become an important part of Patterson’s evolution and gallery, lives in Houston, Texas, but Patterson met him on a Long Island Rail Road train bound for the East End. Similarly, in the 1990s, at the age of 14 Patterson met artist Ashley Bickerton in Bali, not at an art show, but because they were both surfers.
“In 2016, I did a show of his work,” Patterson said. “These other people were saying, ‘How do you know him?’ He was surfing, I was surfing. When you’re a surfer, you have a different connection.
“Like those first experiences that stick with you the most, those early things were formative,” he said. “To be able to meet someone you’re not introduced to and have faith in that and trust that is more important than being super connected. It’s about who you are — an authentic connection.”
Just like instinct, those chance connections have continued to serve Patterson well over the course of his career. Now, with his new gallery space in Wainscott, he is looking forward to keeping the art — and the friendships — flowing.
“There’s an emotional element to my job. A lot of shows we do, we don’t know if they will do well financially and that’s almost not the point,” he said. “It’s about balance and you have to play with that a little.
“My job is not to go out of business, but you can balance big draw artists with those who are up and coming,” he added. “In this recent exhibition, there were 50 artists, 10 of which are in the MoMA collection and three of which this is their first time in a group show.”
“Besides Jack Goldstein, who died in ‘03, I have a relationship with all of them.”
Tripoli Gallery presents “Surge,” a solo exhibition by artist-in-residence Alice Hope from March 14 to April 12. The show opens with a reception on Saturday, March 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tripoli Gallery is at 26 Ardsley Road in Wainscott. For more information call 631-377-3715 or tripoligallery.com.