Your Guide to the Hamptons Art Scene, from West to East

Kate Haveles
Jul 8, 2015 8:39PM

Artists have long flocked to Long Island’s East End, the local landscapes serving as both a source of inspiration and as a haven away from cramped studio spaces in New York City and beyond. This yearly migration has imbued the now ritzy vacation communities around the Hamptons with an artistic heritage that lingers to this day.

In the late 19th century, drawn by the island’s picturesque landscapes, American Impressionists set up studios for themselves out east, among them William Merritt Chase, who established a local summer art school and painted the Shinnecock Hills around his home. As the New York School emerged in the city in the mid-20th century, its legendary participants often journeyed east for the summer, establishing homes and studios around the Hamptons. (Notable locals include Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, Jane Wilson, Jane Freilicher, Helen Frankenthaler.)

Jackson Pollock Painting in His Studio, 1949
LIFE Gallery of Photography
Lee Krasner's Shoes, Pollock Studio, Long Island, 1988
Danziger Gallery

While today the Hamptons may appear to have fallen victim to a surplus of designer shops and reality stars (a Real Housewife never seems far out of view…), the local art scene is still very much thriving and stakes its claim throughout the East End with a series of excellent galleries and institutions bringing dynamic programming to the community year-round. We spoke to a few particularly clued-in members of the scene to get the inside scoop on their can’t-miss art destinations from the Hamptons’ western edge to its eastern tip. Consider your weekend getaway planned.

Southampton and Water Mill

Installation view of “Chuck Close Photographs,” courtesy of the Parrish Art Museum.


A unanimous favorite and storied institution, the Parrish Art Museum has been a part of the Hamptons since 1897, when it was first constructed in the heart of Southampton on Jobs Lane. Since 2012, the museum has lived in Water Mill on a 14-acre site punctuated by an iconic Herzog & de Meuron building, whose structure was inspired by local artists’ studios. The museum’s permanent collection boasts some 2,600 works by a diverse range of artists—from Childe Hassam to Fairfield Porter to Lynda Benglis.

Up now, “Chuck Close Photographs” is, as Parrish’s director Terrie Sultan points out, “the first museum survey of Close’s work in the photographic medium.” Coming up next month, “Andreas Gursky: Landscapes” opens as the artist’s first U.S. museum show since a 2001 survey at MoMA. Also on view is the latest installment of the museum’s “Platform” series, “a special initiative whereby an artist is invited to respond to the architecture, context, and environmental conditions of the museum,” according to the director. Past Platform artists have included Maya Lin and Josephine Meckseper; this year Tara Donovan is featured, with an installation Sultan describes as “stunning and very uplifting.”

The Watermill Center currently hosts the latest set of the hundreds of artists that have passed through the five-week intensive summer residency that it has held for the past two decades. Directed by Watermill founder Robert Wilson, the International Summer Program brings together up to 100 emerging artists each year, some of whose works make an appearance at its annual Summer Benefit & Auction—which raises the funds to support its residencies—and later at Discover Watermill Day in August. This summer sees an additional lecture series with talks from the likes of Philip Glass and Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. And Daniel Arsham has created an installation within the main building, featuring one of Arsham’s iconic ghostly, draped sculpture pieces, that playfully interacts with the center’s architecture.

Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor

Bridgehampton’s Dan Flavin Institute is another favorite, established in 1983 by the Dia Art Foundation. Nine fluorescent works by Flavin light up the renovated firehouse in a permanent installation on the second floor, with a rotating gallery space downstairs. Nearby in Sag Harbor, visit Grenning Gallery, this summer showing Sarah Lamb and Marc Dalessio, and RJD Gallery, which hosts a group show “The Revolution hasn’t started…” In between, stop into the historic American Hotel for some lunch and local history—chances are you may spot a few artists and other creative types at a neighboring table. (Billy Joel is often a fixture of the hotel’s patio.)

East Hampton

Installation view of “Hayal Pozanti: Scrambler,” Halsey McKay Gallery. Courtesy Halsey McKay Gallery and the artist.

Be sure to seek out Newtown Lane in East Hampton, where you’ll find ample galleries all in a row. Among them is Halsey McKay Gallery, co-founded by curator Hilary Schaffner and artist Ryan Wallace. Ellie Rines, who helms Manhattan’s 55 Gansevoort and works out east at Halsey McKay on the weekends, said, “We have Elise Ferguson and Hayal Pozanti shows up right now, and we’re showing one of my favorite artists, Ethan Greenbaum, in a couple weeks.” Regarding the local scene at large, Wallace explains that “part of what made me love working out here and wanting to run a space out here was that everyone relaxes a bit.” He adds, “You get the same enthusiasm for what you are up to but without the kind of angst and competition of the city. It’s very private in an intimate, not exclusive, way.”

Pop next door to see what’s on at Harper’s Books. The space “is a rare bookstore and gallery where artists, collectors, and rare book enthusiasts come to find remarkable items of exceptional quality,” registrar Zach Fischman explains, noting that Harper’s serves as a “landing pad for internationally recognized and emerging artists to source cool and unusual books and ephemera,”  For its summer show, Harper’s asked five artists to play tag, each choosing another artist to join in on a group drawing show. “We ended up with an incredible group of 10 artists,” says Fischman, with Joe Bradley, Brian Belott, Eddie Martinez, Gerasimos Floratos, Chris Martin, Tamara Gonzales, Jonas Wood, Katherine Bernhardt, Mark Grotjahn, and Jennifer Guidi making up the list.

Image courtesy of Harper’s Books.

Down the street, Tripoli Patterson’s newly opened East Hampton outpost of his eponymous gallery currently features a group show, “A Walk…”, with work by Bjarne Melgaard and Keith Sonnier, among others. (Tripoli Gallery’s original space in Southampton features a show by Bosco Sodi.) Other galleries to check out around town are Eric Firestone Gallery, Lawrence Fine Art—currently showing recent work by Joe Novak—and The Drawing Room, which Fischman calls “a veritable institution in East Hampton.”

Also not to be missed is East Hampton Shed, which Halsey McKay’s Wallace describes as “a really cool little program that does a few shows a year.” Aptly named, the shows are mounted “literally in a shed that has been white-washed, with fluorescent lighting put in, so during their opening the space glows super bright in this gorgeous backyard,” Wallace adds. This season, find a bijou show by Trudy Benson and Russell Tyler at the Shed, which can be found tucked behind Vogel Bindery just west of town.

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner stones in Green River Cemetery in Springs, New York. Image by Americasroof via Wikimedia Commons.

A little further afield in historic Springs, visit the Pollock Krasner House, where you can walk through Pollock’s preserved studio. Along the way stop, in at The Fireplace Project, a renovated garage that operates as a project space for solo and group presentations. Each summer sees projects by four different artists, with Dustin Yellin, Dirk Bell, Kaye Donachie, and Dashiell Manley, among those on deck for 2015.

“Everywhere you turn in the Hamptons, you're bound to meet an artist,” says Fischman. “But if you’re looking for a real experience with the history of the New York art scene in the Hamptons, take a trip to Green River Cemetery.” Rines, too, recommends a pilgrimage to Green River; “Stuart Davis’ headstone is superb,” she notes. “You can also cry at the plots of Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, John Ferren, Ad Reinhardt, Henry Geldzahler, and Elaine de Kooning.” Across the harbor, Elaine de Kooning’s former home and studio now sits as a bastion of contemporary art, under the ownership of Dallas Art Fair founder Chris Byrne; this past spring Halsey McKay activated the space with a site-specific installation by Chris Duncan, and last summer Tyson Reeder, Sadie Laska, and Lizzi Bougatsos set up residence in the storied space.

Amagansett and Montauk

Andy Warhol and Andy Wyeth, Montauk Point L.I., ca. 1970
HG Contemporary

Head further east and you’ll reach Karma in Amagansett, “New York’s coolest publisher and alternative art space,” according to Fischman. “This year they'll mount a series of four group shows dedicated to artists who engage with photography in their practice.” From there, follow the highway and don’t stop until you reach Montauk, where you can pick up a lobster roll at LUNCH along the side of the road. (It’s not far from the home of Adam Lindemann, the mega-collector whose estate out east is perhaps best known for the rather phallic and mighty controversial Franz West sculpture that was erected on his lawn a few years back.)

Hit up the Surf Lodge, which has been drenched in rainbow colors by L.A. artist Jen Stark this summer as part of an artist-in-residence collaboration with Eric Firestone Gallery. And finally, relax and take in the views on one of the Northeast’s most iconic beaches, which has played subject—and playground—to artists from Warhol and Peter Beard to Michael Dweck.

Kate Haveles

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Cover image: Antoine Rose, Four Flags, 2012. Courtesy of the artist, Emmanuel Fremin Gallery, and Samuel Owen Gallery.