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Arts and Commerce


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Arts and Commerce

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — “My studio out here isn’t quite as set up for photography as my place in the city,” the artist Cindy Sherman said before the 90th-anniversary gala for Guild Hall. The multidisciplinary arts institution in East Hampton is where a newbie painter named Jackson Pollock once showed his radical drip paintings, and where nearly 60 years later Beyoncé filmed scenes for “Black Is King.”

Ms. Sherman was referring to her compound in nearby Springs, where she has been living since the onset of the pandemic and where she has been focusing on her pottery wheel, rather than the manipulated self-portraits that made her one of the more significant artists of a generation.

“I’m kind of a folk artist now,” she said.

As with much else during these strange days, the Guild Hall wingding had been set back by a year. Lockdown closed the place just as “A History of the Present,” a 2020 exhibition by the artist Robert Longo, was about to open.

Nimbly (and with a generosity for which the artist community tends to get too little credit), Mr. Longo redirected his energy to organizing “All for the Hall,” a benefit sale of works by celebrated friends. The sale “raised a half-million dollars that carried us through this horrible time,” said Andrea Grover, the executive director of Guild Hall.

Daily news updates suggesting that the terrible times are far from over threatened to put a damper on the anniversary gala. Even so, the Hamptons gratin were not to be deterred.

Masked guests, who followed the party’s graphic black, white and red dress code, whipped through an exhibition of Mr. Longo’s monumental neorealist charcoal paintings and then, shod in Gucci slides, Amina Muaddi stilettos and intrecciato slingbacks from Bottega Veneta, hoofed the quarter-mile down Main Street to James Lane.

There, golf carts waited to transport them down a pea gravel drive to the stupendous ocean-view home of Leila Straus, the widow of the industrialist and arts patron Mickey Straus.

Crowding a check-in desk up front was a blend of artists (Ugo Rondinone, Alexis Rockman, Mr. Longo, Ms. Sherman, Rashid Johnson, Bryan Hunt), collectors and irascible celebrities (Alec Baldwin), all obediently producing the latest party must-have: proof of vaccination.

Once past the doorkeepers, guests entered an Oz-like 11-acre property whose emerald lawn, thick as a carpet, overlooked the Maidstone Club golf course across Hook Pond.

Elsewhere in the Hamptons that weekend, revelers were surely fueling up for tequila-fueled raves. Yet the Guild Hall gala was as sedate as a bingo hall. The easy listening D.J. music floating on evening zephyrs suggested this may have been a matter of target demographics.

“All the men look like Walter Isaacson,” said a guest, nibbling a toast round topped with burrata, a single fava bean and olive oil “pearls.” That was not entirely the case. Some resembled Warren Buffett.

Still, philanthropists remain the lifeblood of crucial arts institutions like Guild Hall. And if the aggregate worth of the assembled could go a long way toward settling the national debt, the fact that the ultrarich are out and spending again should be taken as good news. “The pandemic isn’t over yet,” said Ms. Grover, the director of the museum.

And seemingly the wealth divide will long outlast the pandemic.

“The value of this property is probably 100 times my entire net worth,” a reporter remarked to one guest who manages a large hedge fund.

“I didn’t know you were that rich,” he replied.

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The emerald lawn of an East Hampton estate was a fitting backdrop for a return to summer revelry at Guild Hall’s 90th-anniversary gala.

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