The East End has a deep legacy of art and artists which carries on today. And as 2017 draws its final curtain, we’re looking back at some of the most memorable, important and just plain interesting moments from the past year. We’ve had 12 months of exciting exhibitions, momentous occasions, anniversaries and more.
We share these five moments below with an attempt at some sort of order, though it’s difficult to truly quantify the value of one over another.
1. Art Donovan Brings Steampunk’s ‘Odd Beauty’ to Southampton Arts Center
Southampton lighting designer, artist, author and curator Art Donovan is among the most important figures in the steampunk art and design movement, so it was only a matter of time before he introduced the community to his passion. Kudos to Southampton Arts Center for taking the risk, which clearly paid off. Donovan’s fourth steampunk exhibition—following the world’s first museum show of the genre at Oxford University’s Museum of the History of Science in 2009 and another at Seoul National Museum in South Korea in 2014—Odd Beauty: The Techno-Eccentric World of Steampunk Art was a massively popular exhibition featuring more than 20 artists. The show was an edgy, breakthrough moment for the Hamptons art scene, offering a shot of adrenaline to a sometimes predictable landscape of abstracts and…well…landscapes. It was hands-down our favorite. Other shows may have had some stronger individual pieces than the strongest in Odd Beauty, but nothing could compare to its collective impact. This was truly an event, and it won’t soon be forgotten.
2. Parrish Art Museum Celebrates Five Years in Water Mill
Can you believe five years has passed since the Parrish Art Museum upgraded from its Jobs Lane location to its current Herzog & de Meuron designed home in Water Mill? In some ways, though, it feels like the museum has always been where it now so clearly belongs. The Parrish celebrated the big anniversary with a weekend of events from November 10–12, including opening Five and Forward, a new exhibition of works from the museum’s permanent collection. During that weekend, visitors enjoyed slides of the new building’s construction and spent time marveling at the world class museum right on our doorstep. Since the move, the Parrish Art Museum has become more important by continuing to add excellent cultural programs, workshops and exhibitions from some of the world’s most respected artists.
3. Audrey Flack’s Big Year: WCA Lifetime Achievement Award, Photorealism at Parrish and More
East Hampton art icon Audrey Flack roared into the limelight this year with important shows and well deserved recognition for her contribution to the history of art. On February 18, Flack received a Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) Lifetime Achievement Award in New York City. For those who don’t know, the 86-year-old Photorealism pioneer, feminist and brilliant sculptor was the first woman (along with Mary Cassat) to be included in Jansen’s History of Art—considered the art history bible. She also has work in permanent collections at major museums, such as The Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and many, many more. In addition to her award, Flack had a brilliant solo show, Master Drawings from Crivelli to Pollock, at Hollis Taggart in NYC, and her work was featured prominently at the Parrish Art Museum’s survey of Photorealism, From Lens to Eye to Hand: Photorealism 1969 to Today. Bravo. Let’s hope we see more of her in 2018!
4. North Fork Art Collective Opens Gallery and Studio in Greenport
With rents as high as they are in the Hamptons, we looked longingly to our sister fork when the North Fork Art Collective launched a show space and communal studio at 19 Front Street in the center of downtown Greenport this summer. This new collective of young, emerging artists from both the Hamptons and North Fork hoped to shake up the local gallery and art scene with their exciting new endeavor, and, as we said then, it’s something the community should absolutely embrace. The East End needs more projects like this, and its getting harder and harder to do with each passing year. Members of the collective include founder and chalk artist Kara Hoblin, photographer Madison Fender, draftswoman Kelly Franke, landscape photographer Jeremy Garretson and mixed media artist Peter Treiber Jr. from the North Fork, as well as painter Emma Ballou and mixed media artist Scott Bluedorn from the South Fork. Let’s get them some solid support from the community, and keep this thing going through 2018 and beyond.
5. Eric Fischl Paints Trump and His Cabinet
For liberals and lefties, 2017 was a brutal year. Donald Trump took the White House by storm after his stunning and wholly unexpected electoral victory over Hillary Clinton, and he immediately went to work trying to dismantle much of what his predecessor, Barack Obama, put in place over the previous eight years. But it wasn’t all bad for blue voters. Trump’s reign inspired a golden era of late night comedy, including Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, Seth Meyers and his A Closer Look videos, Steven Colbert’s monologues and, closer to home, Eric Fischl‘s brilliant portrait series. The world renowned North Haven painter channeled his pain, rage and frustration with the new administration into a series of less than flattering caricatures featuring Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, Shawn Spicer, Michael Flynn and Stephen Miller, to name a few. He graciously spoke to us about the paintings, which he created digitally using his iPad Pro and the ArtRage app, and shared some thoughts and insights we’ve not seen anywhere else. At the time, he said of Trump, “He’s not worldly except for the most base level of avarice—it’s embarrassing…Instead of diplomatic leadership…he’s reduced it to schoolyard bully crap, name calling. It’s scary.”