Among the many art dealers in the Hamptons, Lex Weill stands apart as a dealer-advisor with his finger on the pulse of tomorrow’s next big contemporary artist. From his Lex Weill Gallery in Southampton, he sells works by Modernist masters, post-World War II through current day.
Interestingly, to say Weill shows “post-war Modernists” is redundant, because in spite of disputes among experts as to the start date of the Modernist movement, Weill, who received a Master’s in Post-War and Contemporary Art from Christie’s, is a firm believer that it includes “anything after World War II because there was a seismic shift in both the market and the artists that were acquired. And also, in a sense, American artists taking the pivot point from Picasso and Matisse, and passing the torch to the Abstract Expressionists.” A major paradigm shift took place “when Pollock started dripping,” he adds.
Lex Weill Gallery has shown works by Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Joan Mitchell, Avery Singer and other contemporaries. In summation, Weill’s gallery is a “personal showing of what I collect myself, mixed in with works that I’m looking to sell” comprising “a healthy mix between those Modernist and contemporary masters — almost like a who’s who of the hyper-contemporary market, meaning the artists of tomorrow.”
As a dealer-adviser, Weill expresses that “if someone wants to know who’s next, I’d like to be the person who’s in that discussion.” And when he promotes an emerging artist, he does so wholeheartedly by purchasing pieces he believes will usher in the future of art, unique works with no discernible muse, rather than by playing it safe with consignment or artists whose styles are derivative of others.
“A lot of galleries hinge on taking works on consignment and things of that nature, which bodes very well for them,” he says. “For me, the business plan was a little different because it’s meant to show that I really stand behind what I say, so that if I suggest something to a client or am very pro an artist, there is backing behind that from me personally. And I think that adds a level of transparency.”
One such artist he took a chance on was Jordan Casteel, who would later go on to paint covers for Vogue and Time magazines. Timing is everything, Weill shares, so should an art advisor jump onboard the Casteel train now, it wouldn’t prove the same level of expert foresight given the artist’s current popularity.
“Once a wave starts to happen, it’s easy to get on that wave, and there’s nothing necessarily special about it,” Weill says, adding that the search for the next great living artist is a trend that hasn’t been seen to the same extent since the careers of Basquiat, Warhol, Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe. “After that saga happened, it went back to this old method of the dead artists, for lack of a better term, being the artists you want to collect, or the artists who made history. Now there’s more of a sense of history in the making.”
Alluding to this new paradigm shift, and the astronomical prices correlated with these contemporary artists, Weill had originally intended to title his current exhibition More Urgent Than Ever, but ultimately decided to leave the exhibition untitled, much like the 1944 Pollock painting featured in it. The show’s contemporary pieces include Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe’s 2019 “Just Do it,” Jadé Fadojutimi’s 2017 “The Barefooted Scurry Home,” Casteel’s 2013 “Mom” and Cinga Samon’s 2017 “Lift Off.”
Expected to arrive late summer or early fall, Weill is thrilled to share a recently acquired piece by emerging artist Christina Quarles, who is, in Weill’s opinion, “just a rock star.”
“She kind of meets this very unexplored place between surrealism and cubism that I find highly unique,” he continues. “It was a very exciting piece for me to pick up, because it’s like looking at someone who has that little starlight in their eye, that twinkle, and you know they’re going to be big. It’s very exciting for all parties involved in making art history.”
Weill hopes to continue finding up-and-coming artists to promote at his Southampton gallery — hyper-contemporary artists whose works are unique in technique and style, and who are due for an outpouring of support and status.
“The general population is going to understand the seismic value that (these artists) bring to the table, the technical attributes and all of those things,” he says. “They’re just really themselves, and they have such a unique style that hasn’t been done before. For me, that’s the most rewarding — finding those artists — because I just know that beyond really enjoying and geeking out over them, sooner or later connoisseurs and advisors will be picking up on them in a number of years.”