My Hamptons: Terrie Sultan – Parrish Art Museum Director, Writer

Terrie Sultan with art by Ross Bleckner
Terrie Sultan with art by Ross Bleckner, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Terrie Sultan had long considered the Hamptons a home away from home—her brother, artist Donald Sultan, is a longtime resident of Sag Harbor—so when the post of director of the Parrish Art Museum became vacant in 2007, the museum professional with decades of experience as a curator, author and director was delighted to be chosen as the next museum director. She lives in Southampton with her husband, artist Christopher French.

Behind the Hedges: How long have you been coming to the Hamptons? What do you like about it?

Terrie Sultan: I started visiting the Hamptons in the mid-1980s, when I was living and working in New York and my brother Donald Sultan rented a summer house in Sag Harbor. For many years my husband and I spent parts of the summer and holidays in the home Donald purchased in Sag Harbor. I love the beauty of the East End landscape, and the special camaraderie of the artist community makes this a welcoming place.

BTH: Describe your Hamptons home and decorating style. Is it filled with art?

TS: We purchased our home three years ago after renting to be near the Parrish construction site in Water Mill. Most of our furniture is mid-century modern, and yes, our style is largely defined by the art that surrounds us, a combination of abstract and representational paintings and works on paper made by artist friends, as well as works by my husband Christopher French.

Terrie Sultan outside the Parrish Art Museum
Terrie Sultan outside the Parrish Art Museum, Photo: Barbara Lassen

BTH: If you had to choose your favorite work of art at the Parrish, what would it be?

TS: That’s like asking a mother to identify her favorite child. Not a question I can answer!

BTH: What’s the best part about being the director?

TS: Having had the opportunity to work with world renowned architects, expert builders, dedicated staff and visionary trustees to realize the new building in Water Mill was one of the best experiences of my 30-year career in the museum profession. Now that the working environment of the Parrish has been completed, I have the pleasure of interacting with wonderful works of art and the artists who made them, envisioning the artistic and programmatic direction for the Museum, and engaging with the intelligent and creative people who work with me.

BTH: If you could snap your fingers and instantly have another career, what would be your dream job?

TS: I’m in my dream job.

BTH: What do you like to do in your spare time?

TS: I love to read, fiction mostly. Play the flute and try to master a Bach partita I’ve been working on for years. In the summer, relax with my husband over a lunch of fresh corn, mozzarella and tomato, and enjoy a quiet afternoon in the shade. In the winter, a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn in front of the fire.

BTH: What’s your most treasured possession?

TS: The thing I treasure most isn’t a possession.

BTH: Describe your perfect day on the East End in detail.

TS: The nature of my job means that every day brings new challenges and new adventures. One of my favorite moments is heading home after a long day at the Museum with the anticipation of a quiet evening with Christopher—something that doesn’t happen all that often.

BTH: If you could have anyone at your Hamptons dinner party—dead or alive—who would you invite?

TS: I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to dine with so many fascinating artists, writers, musicians, collectors and colleagues. My one regret is never having had that opportunity to engage with some of the great people who are no longer with us, like the artist Roy Lichtenstein or one of my writer-heroes, Peter Matthiessen. If I could go back in time, I would rectify that.

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