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This is a big weekend for art in the Hamptons. On Saturday, The Watermill Center will host its annual auction and benefit, and tomorrow marks the VIP opening preview of the third edition of Art Southampton, sponsored by Graff Diamonds, Ruinart Champagne, and Maserati. The modern and contemporary art fair brings together this year 80 international galleries and stays open through Monday, July 28. We spoke with the director of the fair,Nick Korniloff, in the weeks leading up to Art Southampton, to talk about what sets it apart form the other Hamptons art fairs (which took place two weeks ago) and his role at the helm of Art Miami, Art Silicon Valley, and The Downtown Fair (among others).
WHITEWALL: The VIP opening on Thursday, July 24 benefits the Parrish Art Museum. How did the fair’s relationship with the museum come about?
NICK KORNILOFF: Certain board members and directors of the museum have been visiting Art Southampton since its inception in 2012. We were in constant communication with them about having an alignment tied to the fair that would help support their initiatives to move the museum in a positive direction and create awareness for it internationally. So, for us, it only makes sense to have a partner of such stature in the community that supports the arts.
Hopefully in the long run, we’ll be able to utilize the fair not just to help promote the Parrish and help them raise much needed funds, but also for them to see the fair as an open invitation for their acquisition committees and collectors to buy work. It’s a process, but we’re excited to have the opportunity to be aligned with them. The facility is magnificent, and the collection continues to get better and better.
WW: When you’re in different locations for many fairs you direct (Art Southampton, Art Miami, Art Wynwood, Art Silicon Valley, and now the Downtown Fair), how important are local institutions to what you do as a fair?
NK: It’s very important. I think the sustainability of a fair can only be achieved if you are engaged in the community at many different levels, both socially and culturally. So our targeted benefactors are generally not just in the art world. We work with many different groups in each community that are art-based, but also those that are not. Here in Southampton, we work with the Southampton Hospital and Fresh Air Home.
WW: This is the third edition of Art Southampton. How have you seen it grow over the past couple years, and what’s new in 2014?
NK: The goal here was to clearly establish a fair in the Hamptons that was reflective of the community that lives here or vacations here, that has the amenities and quality of artwork that culturally savvy people understand. We wanted to raise the platform of the art fair to a higher level. And last year, we definitely took another step and became more international. In addition, our fair has more of the local East-end dealers than any of the other shows out here in the market, and that is a sign of confidence in what we’re doing. Some of those dealers never have the opportunity to exhibit in some of the bigger international art fairs, so it’s a nice experience for them. It raises their pedigree among the collectors, and gives them more of a broader, international audience to appeal to.
WW: What about the timing of having Art Southampton two weeks away from Art Hamptons and Art Market Hampton? Was that a strategic decision?
NK: We had absolutely no problem being the third fair in the market. We felt strong enough that we had our own identity and we would elevate the overall perception of what an art fair should be in the Hamptons. We really align ourselves with the needs of the community. The fair started based upon important collectors too. I knew from Miami, Palm Beach and New York collectors that the Hamptons deserved something better than what was happening, so we really focused in on that.
WW: This year you also establish Art Silicon Valley, which will take place later this fall. Tell me about arriving at the decision to create a fair for that region.
NK: This is a project that we’ve been looking at for the last four or five years, understanding that this is an interesting market for everyone who’s involved in the art world, and no one’s really figured it out. I’ve seen other fair producers use the fact that there’s just so much money out there that you can’t ignore it. That’s not the reason to do anything. That can’t be the strategy. You can’t go out and try to make a market based on the obvious. To me, it’s more about understanding the culture.