Hustle Beach

Long Island

Left: Cindy Sherman and Chuck Close. Right: Marla Prather, Mickey Straus, and Alexandra Munroe.

It may be only a few golf swings from that height of East Hampton hoity-toitydom, the Maidstone Club, but for much of its sixty-nine years Guild Hall has contented itself with remaining a small-town art space dedicated to the artists in its hood. Of course, when the local talent boasts names like Close, Sherman, Salle, Fischl, Bleckner and Chamberlain, not to mention Pollock, de Kooning, and Rivers, the place may not have to try that hard to be the Little Museum That Could.

Take last Friday night, when all of the above (minus Pollock, de Kooning and Rivers, that is), joined Dennis Oppenheim, the Donalds (Sultan and Lipski), Trisha Brown, Keith Sonnier, Alice Aycock, Billy Sullivan, Douglas Baxter, Marla Prather, Mickey Straus, Larry Gagosian, Klaus Kertess, and at least a hundred other East Enders to view an exhibition by an artist with no regional ties whatsoever, Robert Rauschenberg. As if that were not enough to distract from the noise Southampton's Parrish Museum has been making about Herzog and de Meuron designing its future complex in Watermill, Guild Hall's Ruth Appelhof paired Rauschenberg with Sag Harbor's own Cindy Sherman.

Inspired, no?

No. But curious, yes, and at times joyous. On the Rauschenberg side, we were given the ethereal “Hoarfrosts,” 1974-75, unframed transfer paintings on silk, cheesecloth, and satin that have not been seen together in this quantity since their joint airing at Castelli and Sonnabend in the mid-‘70s. Selected and installed by longtime Rauschenberg curator David White (a local resident), with the artist's other right-hand men, Charlie Yoder and Thomas Bueller, the works looked anything but dated and nothing short of ravishing.

Left: Corinna Durland and Clarissa Dalrymple. Middle: Matthew Higgs and Richard Prince. Right: Joe Zucker.

Next to this focused selection—a single body of work, after all—the capsule view of Sherman's career, drawn from various Hamptons collections and from different series (from the “Untitled Film Stills,” 1977-80, to the demented clowns, 2003), seemed too much a hodgepodge to gel as one show. Context came mostly in the form of Sherman herself, looking bubblicious with very blond hair and a bright yellow daisy planted in her shoulder bag. (“Someone stuck it in there,” she said. “I sort of like it.”) Diving through the crowd of summer tans repairing to the Georgica home of Ninah and Michael Lynne for a high-rolling auction and dinner was the vacationing Friedrich Petzel. But wasn't this just like work? Vigorous nod. “That's why I'm so uncomfortable!”

The art world never sleeps, I commented the following night, during the Elizabeth Peyton/Nick Mauss opening at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller. “A good thing, too,” replied Matthew Higgs, “or I'd be out of a job.” The White Columns chief was getting his first-ever taste of the South Fork, not realizing that half the guests, who included Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz, Chrissie Iles, and Richard Prince and dealers Sadie Coles (with baby), Jay Gorney, and Gavin Brown, had actually trucked over from the North Fork, lately the Club Med of the younger art set.

In fact, putting both tines together made this the better, looser party—even Barbara Gladstone wore white! Apparently Tony Just suggested pairing Peyton with Mauss. (“He knows how much I love Nick's work,” she said. He knows everything else about her too, doesn't he?) But it was bookstore director John McWhinnie who had encouraged the several Peyton-Mauss collaborations hanging on the wall, with individual drawings and watercolors paying homage, in the way these artists do, to various lords and ladies of louche (from Florine Stettheimer to Pete Doherty). “Sold,” the checklist said, for every single one. “We know the market likes us,” McWhinnie said. “Now we have to see what the critics think.”

Okeydokey! But why ask for grades when you're too cool for school?

Left: Elizabeth Peyton and Nick Mauss. Right: Friedrich Petzel, Janelle Reiring, and Tim Nye.