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At Parrish Gala, Agnes Gund Talks $165 M. Lichtenstein Sale, Jeff Koons Leads Tour

Clifford Ross’s Digital Wave (2017) outside the Parrish Art Museum


Busy weekend in the Hamptons!

First off, you had the inaugural edition of the Upstairs Art Fair in Amagansett, set up by dealers Bill Powers and Harper Levine, who both have spaces out east and on the Upper East Side. They reeled in local outfits such as newcomer Rental Gallery, which was opened earlier this year in East Hampton by dealer (and ARTnews columnist) Joel Mesler, and his neighbor Halsey McKay. East Village gallery Karma—which also has a seasonal space just down the street from the fair, currently showing Calvin Marcus and Harold Ancart—took part as well, and was joined by downtown New York City stalwarts James Fuentes and Rachel Uffner.

What else? Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe opened a show at Fireplace Project, Lower East Side dealer Kai Matsumiya instructed his artists to take over the Surf Lodge as part of Richard Phillips’s ongoing programming there, and the Elaine de Kooning House opened its doors to guests, who came to see a collaborative project between John Riepenhoff and Ryan Wallace.

Fun stuff, all, but perhaps the weekend’s biggest event was the annual Parrish Art Museum’s Midsummer Party, a gala that raises money for the Water Mill institution. As visitors in their Hamptons finest arrived at the Herzog & de Meuron-designed museum, they were greeted by the LED waves of Clifford Ross’s Digital Wave (2017) installed on its side, visible to all the commuters stuck in traffic.

There were more new wave works by Ross inside, as well as a lovely retrospective of John Graham, the influential Ukrainian-born American modernist painter. And who was in there but a very different kind of artist who nevertheless seemed to be enjoying the work quite a lot: Jeff Koons.

Agnus Gund and Jeff Koons at the 2017 Parrish Midsummer Party.


“I’m familiar with John’s work but to look at everything again in a fresh manner is really… exciting,” Koons said to me.

He started to give me a little tour.

“I was looking at this earlier today, and I became aware how much it looks like a Jim Nutt,” he said in front of Head of a Woman (1954), a portrait with a grid on loan from the prominent Bridgehampton collectors Len and Louise Riggio.

“To see these different connections, the connectors to different artists—that’s what I love about the tide of history,” Koons said. “The different references, the different people who influenced him, the different people he influenced.”

Then we walked over to Two Sisters (1944), which took the jitney over from the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, and is perhaps the best example of Graham’s paintings of cross-eyed women.

“Picasso, a lot of times, in one head he had two profiles, two faces, and by making them cross-eyed, Graham’s creating a similar situation, where this is like one half of a person, one profile,” Koons said. “And then you’re using your sense of sight to observe this and to bring its meaning together, to get the sitters’ own vision.”

Koons led me to the other side of the room, took in the full view, and sighed.

“I like the flatness, I like how the pieces have a traditional perspective, and then they have this flatness,” he said. “There’s so much going on and I’m really thrilled.”

Then he was intercepted by a friend, but that was OK by me as it was time for the dinner, which was honoring Agnes Gund, who revealed last month that she had sold Roy Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece (1962) to Steven A. Cohen for $165 million, and would use $100 million of the funds to start the Art for Justice Fund, which supports criminal justice reform.

“Aggie, recently you sold a painting that you lived with for many years,” said Dorothy Lichtenstein, the artist’s widow, as she introduced the guest of honor. “By the way, it was a Lichtenstein, and Roy would be overjoyed.”

“This action on your part has brought the issue to greater attention, but you will not stop there,” she said.

And no, the grand dame of arts patronage did not stop there: it was announced earlier in the night that Gund had donated $500,000 to the Parrish to establish the Dorothy Lichtenstein ArtsReach Fund, to allow the museum to engage in the same kind of activism as the Art for Justice Fund. For good measure, Lichtenstein threw in $100,000 to the fund that bears her name. The museum’s director, Terrie Sultan, called it “a transformational gift for the museum.”

“Dorothy, I am thankful of your support for my difficult decision, because it was a very difficult decision,” Gund said of selling Masterpiece, once she took to the stage. “I really have become friends with the paintings I have living with me, caring for them, almost weirdly. It was so nice that Dorothy, when I had to tell her that I had to do it, she was really positive about it, because she knows I care about Roy.”

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