West Egg Story

Long Island

Left: Elizabeth Peyton with dealer Gavin Brown. Right: Debbie Harry. (Photos: Barry Gordin)

“We've got everyone from Dina Merrill to Debbie Harry,” Anne Livet was saying, and what do you know if it wasn't the truth, and not just a proud PR rep's quip. Among the patrons who turned out Friday night for the 75th Anniversary Summer Gala at East Hampton's Guild Hall, which also served as the opening for shows by Elizabeth Peyton and Andy Warhol, I spotted the movie-star aristocrat (who can forget Merrill's cuckolded WASP in BUtterfield 8?) moving among the art-star bohocrats in Peyton's personal orbit: not just the ageless Harry but also Juergen Teller and Sadie Coles, Helmut Lang, Terry Richardson, Jorge Pardo, T. J. Wilcox, Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz, Matthew Higgs and Anne Collier, Gavin Brown and Hope Atherton, and, of course, Tony Just, Peyton's longtime sweetheart.

“I feel like I'm in a Woody Allen movie,” Pruitt observed, and indeed the full-moon gathering of Manhattan sophisticates did seem scripted. I was reminded of the dance-hall scene in West Side Story, the artists (Sharks) on one end and the patrons (Jets) on the other. That is just the way it was under the big-top tent, anyway, where the twain met only on the dance floor.

Left: Auctioneer Simon de Pury. Right: Actress Dina Merrill with Guild Hall executive director Ruth Appelhof. (Photo: Barry Gordin)

There was something heartwarming, if faintly absurd, about an event where Higgs, Harry, Peyton, and company would eagerly cut a rug to society bandleader Peter Duchin's music. In fact, they hit the dance floor ahead of Guild Hall board chair Melville Straus and honoree collectors Thomas H. Lee, the Snapple man, and his wife, Ann Tenenbaum, a Guild Hall trustee. (“I so wish I could have had that Billy Sullivan,” Tenenbaum confessed after the live auction by the estimable Simon de Pury, during which a Peyton print went for $7,500, inexplicably less than a portrait session with Andres Serrano, which went for $10,000. (Altogether, the event raised more than $350,000.)

The band, which played a succession of cover tunes spanning from Cole Porter and George Gershwin to Motown and Top 40 oldies like “American Pie,” kept the crowd on its feet much of the evening. During “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” the tables emptied completely. “We've never had everyone dancing like this before,” marveled Guild Hall's director, Ruth Appelhof. “We usually have another band,” she told me, “but for our seventy-fifth anniversary we thought, ‘Hey, we have to get Peter Duchin!’ Clearly, we did the right thing.”

Left: Artist Jean Pagliuso with New Museum director Lisa Phillips. Right: Guild Hall honoree Ann Tenenbaum.

Even more simpatico were the anniversary exhibitions inside the museum across the road from Mulford Farm, the East Hampton Historical Society site where the party was held. Onetime Montauk resident Warhol was getting his first-ever survey on the South Fork of Long Island. (Better late than never!) Think you've seen enough Warhol portraits? Curator John Smith placed a dozen silk-screened portraits of fellow artists (Donald Baechler, John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, et al.) edge to edge in two rows along the north wall, as if the works were one big painting—possibly the perfect way to read them—and suddenly one couldn't get enough. Also in two rows, on a freestanding wall directly opposite, was a fabulous collection of ’70s and ’80s Polaroids (Martha Graham, Bianca Jagger, Robert Mapplethorpe) that continued on the back of the wall, facing several black-and-white celebrity portraits on paper (Truman Capote, the Shah, Giorgio Armani). The interest hardly flagged in a back gallery, where there were a number of portrait drawings and gouaches from the ’50s, all such a flavorsome sight I forgot there was a crowd pushing in to see what was what.

I hunted in vain for Smith, former assistant director for collections, exhibitions, and research at the Warhol Museum. Finally, Appelhof told me he had left that afternoon for his new job in Washington as director of the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. Gosh, I thought. He hasn't even started yet and already he's been swallowed up by the Bushies.

Left: Bandleader Peter Duchin. Right: Guild Hall trustee Christopher Brown, Andrew Gordon, and Guild Hall trustee Billy Wright. (Photo: Barry Gordin)

I didn't feel sad for long, however, as the Peyton show, of recent monotypes, woodcuts, and etchings (Rirkrit, Spencer, Nicole, etc.) was a total upper, grabbing both eye and spirit. My one regret was missing Terry Richardson's “FTW” (or “Fuck the World”) opening at Glenn Horowitz the following night, though the store's display window alone, which I did see, inspired a return visit. I missed the opening because I stumbled first on Jean Pagliuso's “Poultry Suite” photographs down the lane at the Drawing Room, where East End art-establishment types like Donald Sultan, Eric Fischl, April Gornick, Jennifer Bartlett, and Ross Bleckner were milling. “Fowl as couture,” New Museum director Lisa Phillips observed, and indeed each chicken looked somehow coiffed and styled by the likes of Chanel, Balenciaga, and Dior. Leave it to an artist to transform a barnyard animal into a thing of beauté.

Speaking of animals, I then raced off to join the 250-strong herd of people who came to the Charles Gwathmey–designed Lily Pond Lane manse of Howard and Sheri Schultz, who were giving a benefit dinner for chimp champion Jane Goodall, whose speech, which included perfect imitations of chimp lingo, may well be the most powerful piece of performance art I have ever seen. “Ooh, she's good,” said Merrill, now my tablemate, at one point. “She's very, very good.”

Left: Artist Sally Gall. Right: Artist Juergen Teller with designer Helmut Lang.

The following night brought me full circle back to Guild Hall, for Robert Wilson's Persephone, with music by Philip Glass, costumes by Christophe de Menil, and an audience that included Calvin Klein, David Salle, Bob Colacello, Bleckner, and the Sicilian Principessa Maita di Niscemi, who cowrote the script with Frank O'Hara biographer Brad Gooch. “I enjoyed it!” she said, sounding surprised.

Left: Artists Jennifer Bartlett and Bryan Hunt. Right: Artist Keith Sonnier with auction consultant Anne Livet.

Left: Curator and writer Klauss Kertess with artist Billy Sullivan. Right: Artist Eric Fischl.

Left: Dealer Jürgen Becker with Susanna Becker. Right: New Museum trustee Dianne Wallace.

Linda Yablonsky