In these uncertain times, the new outpost of Sotheby’s Auction House in East Hampton reminds us that art is forever. Owning it nurtures the soul, and is also good for the bank account. “Art has been performing extremely well in the past 20 years, especially for collectors at the high end, both as an index and as a very stable and profitable investment,” says Sotheby’s Vice Chairman of Global Fine Arts Brooke Lampley. “Increasingly, our collectors are no less passionate, yet are equally attracted to the diversification of their asset classes. As people spend more time at home, reflecting on their surroundings and intimate lived experience, they are buying art more.”
And so, the highest end art dealers have followed their clients to the Hamptons. Sotheby’s opened in June, synchronistically alongside the Skarstedt, Pace, Van de Weghe and Michael Werner galleries, as Art Basel went digital. After all, as sophisticated as art online sales have become, there is nothing like standing in front of a painting.
We visited the very engaging Nicholas Cinque, Sotheby’s Director of Private Sales, at the airy East Hampton Newtown Lane space over which he presides. An Amagansett native who credits a Ross School education for his art history enthusiasm, Cinque has adeptly adopted the institution to the East End. “With our massive windows, floor through space, staying open every day and lit at night, it’s a 24 hour experience,” Cinque says. “The public can encounter masters of post-war and contemporary art in an accessible, health conscious format…in July, for example, with flip flops and Babette’s smoothies. I think it’s pretty cool that you can see a 1960s Picasso from the sidewalk. And we make a point of rotating material.”
Sotheby’s displays are equally engaging. “How things interact has been a big emphasis for the space and throughout the company,” Cinque says. “We have a cross section of artists in moments throughout our history and we eschew the sterile white gallery format. Instead, there are vignettes of design and multidisciplines, where you see it coming together in a livable setting.
“For a recent evening sale, we displayed major works by Clyfford Still and Basquiat, with elements of 20th century furniture design, as well as a set of Avanti cars. Right now, we have a George Condo next to a Picasso, a Damien Hirst next to a Warhol, Jacques Ruelland ceramics displayed on a Pierre Jeanneret desk, with a Serge Mouille lamp. Downstairs, you have the African tribal mask with the Bertoia ‘Bush’ (sculpture) with the Jonas Wood print on top of the Nakashima side table.”
There is also a range of price points, “from $5,000 to $5,000,000,” according to Cinque. With Hamptonites buying at all levels, Sotheby’s has extended their lease to October 2021 and is following their collectors to a space in Palm Beach. “It will imitate this model of presenting art, design, watches and jewelry in the buy-it-now, immediate format,” Cinque notes. “That’s what is so special about Sotheby’s. There are very few places you can buy an Ed Ruscha painting, a Rollex watch and a Jean Royère table, all under one roof.”