As I made my way to the Bridge, an art fair held this past weekend at a Hamptons golf club of the same name that costs $950,000 to become a member, my Uber dropped me past an ancient billboard advertising Blitz Weinhard Beer, with a polo-shirted golfer following through on a swing, a frosty mug of brew floating next to him. I thought, That looks like a Richard Prince installation, an appropriated ad, but it was an old billboard, left over from when the grounds were a race-car circuit. Also leftover is the place’s namesake bridge, with the faded letters reading “CHEVRON GASOLINES.” When you walked up to the fair, which took place in bespoke shipping containers set in an almost lunar landscape abutting the course’s 18th hole, there were giant black balloons, each printed with a smiling skull bunny. This actually is a work by Richard Prince. He’s not only one of the members of the Bridge, but in 2008 he was the club champion, and his name appears on a trophy to mark the occasion.
Though the Bridge club is certainly an extremely expensive, ultra-exclusive slice of one of the one percent’s preferred playgrounds, the Prince works and old beer sign hint at its unique DNA. Termed “the untucked club” by the New York Times in 2006, it was established by the ex-banker Bob Rubin, who is not a typical money man. He’s a collector with a tendency to quote the novelist William Gaddis, and who placed work by the sculptor Charles McGill, who died in July, in the club’s pro shop. He recruited Lyor Cohen as a member, and Cohen regularly brings in hip-hop stars to play the course. In 2014, Rubin hosted at the Bridge a screening of a film by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, which got him talking to Pascal Spengemann and Max Levai, from the duo’s gallery, Marlborough Contemporary.
The idea they came up with was to bring an art fair to the Bridge, to coincide with the car show that goes down there every September.
“It already had this structure set up and it seemed like it was an interesting idea to tie it on to that,” Spengemann said. It was late on Sunday, and the art fair dress code of expensive suits and designer sneakers was not being observed. Spengemann was standing in front of the Marlborough booth in ripped jeans and a jean jacket, drinking a can of Montauk Summer Ale. I still have dirt and dust over the boat shoes I was wearing.
“Friday, it was art advisors and real mellow, and then yesterday was real crazy—friends, and new faces, an interesting crossover between people who came for the cars and people who came for the art,” he went on. “I think the general consensus is that people made some sales. I know we had a really good run here.”
For this first edition, organizers convinced like-minded dealers with a sense of adventure to be the guinea pigs, and enlisted Marlborough artist Lars Fisk to design the “booths” of sorts. Fisk fused together two shipping containers, placed skylights at their centers, and had them face southward to get the sun. They were situated on the highest point in the Hamptons, away from the course’s manicured greens, and it felt almost like the California desert.
In addition to Marlborough Contemporary, the outfits present were New York galleries David Zwirner, Canada, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, and Karma, as well as David Kordansky, from Los Angeles. I arrived Sunday, the final day of the fair, having missed much of the action the days before. Collectors such as John McEnroe, A C Hudgins, and others came by, and there was a surprise visit from Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who for years have been vigorous collectors. (There’s a great moment on “The Story of O.J.,” a song off the most recent Jay album, 4:44, where Hov pats himself on the back for correctly playing the market: “I bought some artwork for one million/Two years later, that shit worth two million/Few years later, that shit worth eight million.”)
The scene also included artists Scott and Tyson Reeder noodling on some electronic instruments, sometimes with Canada director Phil Grauer on bongos. A bar (housed inside a shipping container as well) provided minty vodka lemonade cocktails, free of charge. Joe Bradley, who has a house in the area, came by with one of his kids on his shoulder. The dealers hung by their booths, hoping to maybe make a final sale.
Kordansky director Kurt Mueller was standing in front of Chris Martin’s Mother Popcorn (2001–11), which at 12 feet tall is way too large to hang in a shipping container, so it had to stay outside. Martin was fine with that, Mueller said, even if it happened to rain at one point. Thankfully, it didn’t.
“There was some extreme condensation up here, though,” he Mueller said.
It was priced at $100,000 and had not yet sold, but Beyoncé did stop by to pose in front of it, which is something.
“Because we’re an L.A. gallery, we jump at any chance to do something on the East Coast, to check in,” the dealer said. “We haven’t done something in the Hamptons before, and I was really surprised by how many collectors came by. They’re really all out here.”
A few steps away, Zwirner had managed to unload something in the six digits—a legit sale at any fair, not just a fair on a golf course. The gallery reported that it had sold an untitled William Eggleston photograph of a blue Ford Mustang—more cars!—from 1970–74; the price was $350,000. The booth had a theme that synced up with the festivities, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” and included some of Raymond Pettibon’s car drawings, which were selling at prices between $15,000 and $45,000.
At Mitchell-Innes & Nash, much of the booth was sold by Sunday night—including Karl Haendel’s very appropriate work, The Big Bang (in a golf ball), 2003, for $15,000—at which point directors Bridget Finn and Josie Nash had to split: they were driving to Boston to attend the opening of gallery artist Eddie Martinez’s show at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Karma had sold new Dike Blair paintings and work by Walter Price for between $6,000 and $15,000.
As evening approached, the first edition of the Bridge art fair was winding down. When asked if it would be held again next year, Max Levai, the Marlborough Contemporary director, said that it will be back, and in an expanded form. We were standing by the 18th hole, on one of the rolling hills, and beyond the rest of the green you could see the blue of the Noyack Bay in the distance. There appeared to be plenty of room for more shipping containers.