This spring, Onna House debuted its inaugural shows, of work by Mitsuko Asakura and Ligia Dias, in East Hampton, New York. The new space is dedicated to supporting female artists and designers, offering a unique concept that in part is a private collection (with works by Anni Albers, Charlotte Perriand, Kelly Behun, Sabra Moon Elliot, and Toni Ross, to name but a few), gallery, and meeting point for creatives.
Behind Onna House is Lisa Perry, a seasoned collector, philanthropist, and fashion designer. She is known for her impeccable eye, pursuing a vision across her homes that beautifully marry art and interiors—be it Pop in her Manhattan apartment, or Minimalism out East. At Onna House, now available to tour by appointment, Perry combines her love of modernist design (restoring a unique property built in the 1960s) with her longtime advocacy for women’s rights.
Perry shared with Whitewall how her mission for the space—this site for engagement, discovery, and support—coalesced.
WHITEWALL: What was your initial vision for Onna House?
LISA PERRY: It all kind of happened by accident. I was first drawn to the house. It’s all too common now that these 1960s modernist houses are torn down to build these mega mansions. When I saw it, I said, “That’s the project for me.” It reminded me of the house I grew up in in Illinois, and I just fell in love with it.
At that point, it was just saving this architectural gem and having a place to go every day, a working studio environment where I could collaborate with other designers and creative people. And then as the restoration started moving farther along, I had to ask, “What am I putting on these walls?” It has a very Japanese vibe, so I thought, “Let’s look at work by up-and-coming Japanese artists.”
I wanted this whole environment to be by women for women. It brings my passion for supporting women, my passion for architecture, art, and design, all together. And since it had the Japanese feel, I started looking at different names that could be interesting.
WW: As that collection came together, how did your mission evolve?
LP: I thought about, “How am I going to take the next level?” I decided to focus on one or two artists at a time. So Mitsuko Asakura’s work will be up for the opening. There’s a dedicated gallery space, but also a permanent collection. I still want it to look like how art integrates into people’s lives. We’ll curate it that way.
Another artist I love, Ligia Dias, she makes really cool jewelry, and I bought this incredible paper dress collection of hers. She brings them into the modern day, and they have a political bent. She makes these wonderful mirrors with a feminist bent, and so that will be in the studio gallery. Being a collector for my whole life, it will be the first time I’m actually doing a gallery show.
WW: How has this impacted or changed your eye as a collector?
LP: I’ve been collecting for all this time, and to buy things I’d have to fall in love, because I was living with it every day. Now I realize I don’t have to fall “in love.” I can fall “in like.” That has been a really eye-opening and wonderful discovery. The world is opened up to me. It’s so much broader. Now I want to be a little bit unpredictable.
I want people at all different stages of collecting to be able to buy something at Onna House, because ultimately the mission is to help women sell work and to grow their practices.
WW: What were some of the discoveries that you made along the way?
LP: I’ve been going to the Hamptons for 30 years. I’m finding there are so many women artists right here in the Hamptons that have beautiful practices and incredible studios and who do really good work. And they weren’t on my radar. I started one by one to meet them.
My friend Patricia Udell, she does these beautiful reliefs and drawings. Toni Ross not only does ceramics but these weavings. Isabel Rowe has these beautiful teapots. They are all such cool women. And it’s endless.
I am here to support them in all ways—whether they need to have a space for a couple hours to clear their head, come have a cup of tea, meet a friend, do a little work outside their own studio. I think it is something that will help on a day-to-day basis. It’s really exciting.