Parrish Art Museum Celebrates First Year in Water Mill

Parrish Art Museum Hallway
Parrish Art Museum, Photo: Oliver Peterson

One year ago on November 9, the Parrish Art Museum finally moved from its lovely but insufficient space on Jobs Lane in Southampton to a Water Mill facility worthy of its important permanent collection and cultural significance in the Hamptons. Last Friday and Saturday evenings, November 9–10, the museum opened its doors to some 1,500 guests for a celebration of its first spectacular year in the new space, as well as the opening of its new permanent collection display and annual Artists Choose Artists juried exhibition.

The two-night, extended hours party—Friday for members and a VIP opening on Saturday—attracted a who’s who list of Hamptons artists, dealers and collectors at all levels, from the internationally famous to up-and-comers, all gathered to recognize the Parrish for its achievements over this first year in Water Mill. The museum’s new permanent collection installation follows various curatorial themes, such as the connection between painters and poets, sketches and diagrams by sculptors for larger work, the relationship between Fairfield Porter and Robert Dash, and new acquisitions, including “Fifth Street” by Caio Fonseca and “Egyptian Painting: Sahura, 1980” by Dorothea Rockburne.

Almost all 21 artists and mentors from the Artists Choose Artists exhibition (Read review here) were on-hand and enthusiastic, though the day belonged to those lesser known painters, sculptors and photographers chosen for the show. What was once an honor and a thrill for emerging artists at the old Southampton space is now a major event at a world-class museum that could elevate their careers and visibility to new heights. Suddenly, with the advent of the Water Mill museum, these relatively unknown artists are meeting art world bigwigs and getting write-ups in The New York Times and other major publications.

Artist Rossa Cole
Artist Rossa Cole, Photo: Tom Kochie

“It’s a great honor, I’m elated,” Rossa Cole said, recalling that Keith Sonnier chose him after seeing a shanty town he made out of credit cards (though it is not in the show). “He liked my ideas.” Cole, a professional photographer, only recently began creating his found material sculptures, such as guns made of discarded plastic from the beach and a driftwood oil platform, car and wind turbine (all on display).

Photographer and mentor artist in the show Ned Smyth said the show was a positive experience for him as well. “I really enjoyed it,” Smyth said, pointing out that the museum is now an excellent place to attend talks, meet people and get together with friends. As for his “chosen” artists, he was glad to find “two people I didn’t know existed—no one knew—and people really like.”

Along with Smyth and Sonnier, other mentor artists in attendance included Laurie Anderson, Judith Hudson, Mel Kendrick. International artists Eric Fischl, April Gornik, Bryan Hunt, Mary Heilmann and Donald Sultan, whose large “Lemon” painting is now on view at the museum, and musician G.E. Smith were also at the party, to name a few.

Looking back at her first year in the new space, museum director Terrie Sultan said their success shows that people really do look forward to having more quality cultural engagement in the community. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “The outpouring of support from the community has been so deeply gratifying.”

Sultan said they plan to display different work from Parrish Art Museum permanent collection each year, starting on the anniversary in November. “We’re really looking forward to that,” she said, explaining that as time goes on they can evaluate their successes and failings, and then respond in kind.

“Every day since [opening] has been wonderful, exciting and fulfilling,” Sultan said. “It’s so much fun.”

The Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Call 631-283-2118 or visit for more info.

Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan
Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan, Photo: Oliver Peterson


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