Every summer Southampton Village experiences a wave of new and returning art galleries that fill the windows of Main Street, Jobs Lane and Hampton Road with stunning works of creative genius. In August, the community welcomed two entirely unique additions to the cultural hub—Denis Leon Gallery and Phillips Southampton.
With his event photography business undoubtedly impacted by the lack of big, in-person events this year, Denis Leon poured his extra time into his art, making striking mixed media works in his Westbury studio throughout the spring months. “Something creative always has to happen in my life. I can’t sit still and just watch it all go by,” he says. “I constantly have to make something!” Immensely proud of the pieces he’d created during his art-filled sabbatical, he decided to open a gallery in his summer stomping ground, securing one of the last available storefronts on Jobs Lane.
“I chose Southampton because this is the place I want to go to; I always go to Southampton for pleasure! I love the foot traffic, I love the Village and the nearby beaches,” Leon says. “It’s not too far east, it’s not too far west—it’s perfect!”
For the inaugural exhibition, Leon chose two series that feature subjects connected to his life. His classic rock ‘n’ roll pieces in the Rock Gods series feature icons such as The Beatles, Freddie Mercury and Keith Richards, which his parents introduced him to while raising him in Moscow before relocating to the United States in 1991, when he was 9.
His unique beach pieces represent his love of the oceanside and the breathtaking aerial drone photos they inspire him to take. Following the footsteps of aerial photography originator George Allen, Leon put his own spin on the artform, creating three-dimensional multi-media masterpieces. “I wanted to take it a step further and apply mixed media to it—which is resin and crushed glass over the ocean and actual miniature umbrellas to give it a 3D pop,” he says. “From a distance, it looks like a photograph, and as you get closer, you realize all the cool effects that are put into the piece.” He adds that the next stage of evolution will be implementing looping video projections to give the illusion of ebbing waves when viewed in the dark, which he hopes to debut at the gallery this fall.
In the short time since opening, Leon’s Southampton gallery has already proven to be a rewarding and successful endeavor. “The most rewarding part has been having people see what I’m capable of. I’m proud of what I do, and here it is on display, finally,” he says. “It feels good to put my work out there and have people see it, so I can accept criticism and feedback, what they like, what they want to see—to almost collaborate with potential buyers or just people walking by admiring.”
In addition to his own works, Denis Leon Gallery is set to start displaying the work of other artists, beginning with Artem Mirolevich this weekend and continuing with Matthew Heller and Brandon Tellez in September. “I’m going to be constantly freeing up walls to people who inspire me,” Leon says.
Leon is currently scheduled to stay at his location at 79 Jobs Lane, Southampton through the end of October, though he’s seriously considering remaining in the village year-round. “I really want to leave an impact on the community and on Southampton in general,” he says, noting how important he felt it was to donate one of his artworks to Southampton Arts Center’s Collectors Sale fundraiser, beginning August 28, and to take part in other local art events.
To learn more about Denis Leon Gallery, visit dleonstudio.com.
The second of the two new Southampton art spaces, Phillips Southampton, is one unlike any that the village has seen in recent years, possibly ever. Located at the historic Southampton Town Hall building at 1 Hampton Road, the international art auction platform’s newest location serves as a multipurpose exhibition space spanning 8,000 square feet across the main building, annex and second story. “We decided to get the biggest and most ambitious space we could find, because we wanted to be able to do many things—from auction previews to private sales and, at some point in the future, events,” says Robert Manley, Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art at Phillips, adding that virtual events can be expected in the near future as well.
“Our new location in Southampton will allow for intimate in-person viewings of exceptional works of art, jewels and watches, as well as the flexibility for our top collectors to experience artwork in person,” Phillips CEO Edward Dolman adds. “That visceral experience is still such an integral element to appreciating art.”
The inaugural exhibition features 70 pieces that are part of several auctions that will take place in New York City through the end of the year, including the 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening and Day Sales, New Now, Design and the Phillips x Artsy: Endless Summer Online-Only sale. The displayed works vary greatly in terms of medium, price and notoriety of the creator—ranging from young contemporary artists to greats such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Ruth Asawa and Alexander Calder. “We wanted the opening exhibition to show the breadth of Phillips and to have representative examples of all the different departments that we show and sell,” Manley notes. “We have a very clear vision and focus on what we sell. We are interested in 20th and 21st century art and culture and the works that we think speak to a contemporary lifestyle and audience.” While art auctions are the backbone of Phillips, the Southampton space also features prints, photographs, watches, jewelry and artwork available for private sale.
The headliner of the inaugural show is the late Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Portrait of A-One A.K.A. King,” which is estimated to be worth $10–15 million. “This is an exemplary work from the apex of Basquiat’s career, painted in 1982 when he was producing important works of art, free from the constraints and pressures of gallerists and the art market,” says Phillips Chairwoman Cheyenne Westphal. The painting will be put up for auction in Phillips’ November Evening Sale, which, along with the May Evening Sale, is reserved for only the rarest, most valuable treasures in Phillips’ collection.
The inaugural exhibition remains on view through Labor Day, though new discoveries may be added to the exhibition at any time. “That’s one of the great things about this whole situation, how we can just shift gears, take chances and turn on a dime if we come across something that we think would be exciting for viewers,” Manley says. Phillips Southampton currently plans to remain open through the end of the year.
To learn more about Phillips Southampton, visit phillips.com.