Culture Round Table: Art in the Hamptons
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC STRIFFLER
FROM LEFT: Fiona Howe Rudin, Olivia Chantecaille, BJ Topol and Adelina Wong Ettelson
It is an early summer morning and Olivia Chantecaille, Adelina Wong Ettelson, Fiona Howe Rudin and BJ Topol are gathered around Topol’s East Hampton pool. The mood is light, but the conversation is anything but trite. Topol, a 10-year veteran of Vance Jordan Fine Art, launched her own art advisory firm in 2001 before joining forces with Kay Childs to launch Topol Childs Art Advisory, which works with private clients and museums in the field of post-war and contemporary art. Rudin has an equally exceptional résumé, having worked at such prestigious institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the Marlborough Gallery and Paul Kasmin Gallery. The women have come together to discuss their mutual passion for both art and the Hamptons.
OLIVIA CHANTECAILLE: What is it about the Hamptons that attracts artists?
BJ TOPOL: There is such history in the Hamptons. Childe Hassam had a charming house on our street and painted out here, and in the late 1800s, William Merritt Chase started a school in Shinnecock with the top artists in America. He was very influential and talked about how the light is so inspiring. Even earlier than Hassam and Chase, there was Thomas Moran, who was an amazing landscape painter; he painted the Maidstone Golf Club. It goes back so far, and of course everyone knows about Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
ADELINA WONG ETTELSON: In the past couple of years many galleries have opened on the East End. Tell us about what’s going on in the art scene out here.
FIONA HOWE RUDIN: The Fireplace Project is wonderful. It’s in Springs, right next to the Pollock- Krasner House & Study Center, and it’s such an experience to go up there. It feels like you’re in an artist’s studio. I just love the program; I love how Edsel [Williams], the director, brings in outside curators. He’s always on the cutting edge.
BT: My secret weapon out here is John McWhinnie. He just opened a new gallery called Local 87 on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. John has a relationship with the artists—everyone from Richard Prince to Tauba Auerbach—major artists who have major representation in the city, but they come out here and he gives them the freedom to do interesting projects that they’ve always wanted to do. I remember when John did a collaboration project with Elizabeth Peyton and another artist. She was thrilled, saying, “I have never been able to do a project like this, to collaborate with another artist.”
OC: You each have such a great eye for art yet seem to collect quite differently. Tell us about the art you’ve collected for your Hamptons homes.
BT: We wanted our collection to reflect the Hamptons and comprise local artists from different time periods. The first week we spent in this house, we bought a Peter Dayton painting. Over on the far wall we have Falling Birds, a painting by Ross Bleckner; and a drawing by an artist named John White Alexander of a woman with this billowing dress—I think it’s from 1895. Then you have a Michael Kennaugh photograph, which was a wedding gift. It’s very abstract; it’s actually water with the pilings from here, and it all works together.
FHR: I have very eclectic tastes, so our collection ranges from a surfboard piece from Peter Dayton to work from German artist Rebecca Horn. She makes art “machines”; I have a conceptual piece that’s a glass box with this beautiful pencil that’s covered in blue pigment and then a twig from nature, and this butterfly that looks real but is actually a machine on a sensor, so when you walk by, the butterfly’s wings flap.
AWE: Where are some of the favorite places you take your children to experience art?
BT: One of my favorite places is LongHouse Reserve on Hands Creek Road in East Hampton—acres and acres of land owned by Jack Lenor Larsen, who is an unbelievable textile designer. It’s basically a sculpture park and is so special. The kids get to run around and interact with art in a natural setting. Dale Chihuly and Lynda Benglis—who just had a show at the New Museum—did site-specific installations for Larsen.