Spanierman Modern

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An Art Fair Grows in the Hamptons
Gallery Scene

July 17, 2006

When you think cutting-edge contemporary art, the bucolic town of Wainscott, Long Island isn't the first place that springs to mind. Yet this sleepy hamlet (home of the state's only one-room public schoolhouse) not far from Southampton, Sag Harbor, and North Shore, certainly draws summering art collectors. That's probably why it was chosen for the sophomore installment of the Hamptons' very own art fair, Scope Hamptons, which ran over the weekend.

With over 60 international galleries exhibiting in the 20,000-square-foot East Hampton Studios, this summer's edition of the Scope art fairs - which includes shows in New York, London, Miami and Venice - marks a big change for what began as a motley collection of dealers exhibiting in cramped hotel rooms.

"We've definitely grown out of our hotel format," Scope president and global director Alexis Hubshman said. "It was our way of making mistakes, but also finding out the right way to do things."

Known for eclectic and energetic presentations of new art, Scope has long aimed to jump from playing second fiddle to the likes of the Armory Show, and become the key player in the emerging art market. Following wellheeled collectors to their summer homes thus seemed an obvious move.

"A lot of art collectors come to the Hamptons for the summer and complain about how it's all antique fairs and car shows," Mr. Hubshman said. "There was a vacuum here we were eager to fill."

The strategy seems to be paying off. The second Scope Hamptons boasted a 30% larger roster and showed in triple the amount of space. And while its organizers lost money last year, this time they broke even. "We've always grown faster than we can afford anyway," Mr. Hubshman said.

Yet that growth came at a price in the Hamptons. While its fair might be more upscale than the other Scope editions, it's also far more conservative than its sister shows in Miami or London.Light on video and installation art, Scope Hamptons was beset with starchy color photography and palatable figurative painting - mostly midsized and generally on the decorative side.

"There are a lot of people who come just to buy something that looks good over their couch, and so some of the art you see here reflects that," Ombretta Agro, partner of Agro Glickman (Step 1), said. "The crowd can be more conservative and staid here, compared to New York or Miami."

Still, Ms. Agro certainly wasn't playing it safe. Her booth included several paintings of sex positions found on the walls of Pompei, by Neapolitan artist Betty Bee.

Other dealers showing edgier work enjoyed success as well. Anna Klinkhammer Galerie, a Dusseldorf veteran of several Scope fairs, had one of the hottest sellers of the first day with brooding paintings featuring children in scenes of oppressive gloom by newcomer Simone Lucas.

And emerging dealer Anthony Spinello, director of Spinello Gallery, filled his booth with conceptual pieces, including sculptures by Adriana Farmiga and several gouache on paper drawings by Lou Laurita.

That kind of approach is precisely what Mr.Hubshman encourages." I definitely tell galleries to push the edge, because collectors here aren't looking for sunsets," he said. "A lot of galleries made that mistake last year, but the more edgy work definitely sells."

In the Hamptons, that inevitably means rounding out the offerings with secondary market favorites.Along with its usual clutch of new artists, the fair was littered with drawings by the likes of Willem de Kooning and Keith Haring.

James Danziger, of Danziger Projects in Chelsea, made his Scope Hamptons with just such a mix of young and established artists, including work by young photographer Mark Wyse and several Annie Leibovitz photographs of an Alice in Wonderland spread that originally appeared in Vogue magazine.

Spanierman Modern - the latest venture by Gavin Spanierman, the blue-chip New York dealer who also runs a gallery in Easthampton - showed six-figure works on paper by de Kooning alongside new abstract paintings by Gary Komarin.

"De Kooning is so quintessentially associated with this part of Long Island, and, since you can see how he's influenced the other artists we brought, having de Kooning here is not completely out of context for us," the associate director of Spanierman gallery, Sarah C. Cashin, said.

For a fair that prizes itself on "hunting down that most endangered of treasures: the emerging artist," it might seem a bit off point to highlight a longcelebrated artist. But, as is often true in the Hamptons, anything goes.

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