Galleries and other commercial art spaces have begun to reopen in New York but some are still choosing to expand outside the city’s limits to reach clients who have decamped because of the coronavirus pandemic. Phillips, one of the world’s top auction houses, will open a new location in Southampton, N.Y., on Friday.
Seeing how the pandemic has been “impacting our operations and our clients has really got us thinking about how to adapt the business,” Edward Dolman, the chief executive for Phillips, said in an interview.
“It made sense to take art that we would traditionally show solely in Manhattan out to where a lot of our clients decided that they were going to be spending much more of their time,” he added.
Phillips is not alone. Other major galleries and auction houses, including Sotheby’s, Pace, Hauser & Wirth, Skarstedt, Van de Weghe, Michael Werner and South Etna Montauk have opened in Eastern Long Island this summer.
The Phillips space, in the former Southampton Town Hall on Main Street, will open with an exhibition that previews the 20th century and contemporary art sales scheduled for Nov. 11-12. Among its highlights is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Portrait of A-One A.K.A. King,” a painting by the Neo-Expressionist artist that is estimated to sell for $10 to $15 million.
When the coronavirus arrived in the world’s art capitals, auction houses transitioned to livestreamed sales and other forms of online engagement. But so far, Mr. Dolman says, there is no substitute for seeing art in person, especially for potential buyers who are considering investing large sums of money.
“We are very excited about how the market is being transformed by our clients’ willingness to deal with us digitally and virtually,” he said. “But I don’t think anybody will argue for one minute that the experience of standing in front of a work of art is extremely different from anything you can experience through a digital screen remotely.”