Working Vacations

Where Does the Art World Go in the Summer?

Too much is never enough, at least in the Hamptons, which some consider the best variety of art colony—one where every artist owns his or her own estate. "There was always Provincetown and Cape May and Taos and even Cornish, New Hampshire, but we had the proximity to the city," says Helen A. Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center and who (with collaborator Constance Ayers Denne) recently published Hamptons Bohemia: Two Centuries of Artists and Writers on the Beach. Allegedly, potato fields and unspoiled beaches attracted artists out there in the 1950s. But ever since the days of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, the grilled tuna and the convenient access to wealthy collectors have been the draw for artists who cannot bear a clean break from the New York art world. The East End has long been a beachhead for art stars, attracting the likes of Eric Fischl and April Gornick, Julian Schnabel, John Chamberlain, Donald Sultan, and Keith Sonnier, to name a few. And Cindy Sherman has recently joined Nan Goldin in nearby Sag Harbor.

In the ecosystem of the new global art world, however, the Hamptons suddenly seem so '80s. This summer, spurred by the opening of Documenta in Kassel, Germany, in June, increasing numbers of artists are on the road, and are more frequently found in international airports than at second homes on the shore. "Do I have a house in the Hamptons?" Maurizio Cattelan said, laughing. "No, I have a sleeping bag in the Hamptons." He, like other nomad artists on the international exhibition circuit, will be traveling in Europe, supervising productions of new works. Christian Marclay also faces a staggering schedule this summer. Using a visit to Documenta as his launching pad in June, Marclay performed at the Sonar Festival in Barcelona and the Reina Sofía in Madrid, before going to Switzerland for a teaching stint in Saas Fee. En route, he stopped in Yverdon-les-Bains to tinker with his sound piece, Nebula, installed in Diller and Scofidio's Blur Building, and then visited his parents in nearby Geneva. After a brief stint back in New York, he will be on the road again, this time performing with Merce Cunningham Dance Company's August tour in Greece, Italy, and France. "I have been flying so much, it's almost more work than living in New York," says Marclay.

"We are working all the time. We are serious artists, and we travel all the time. It's part of our lives," says Irit Batsry, the Whitney Biennial artist chosen for this year's annual $100,000 Bucksbaum Award. Batsry, who recoiled at the mention of a vacation, finally admitted that she took a week off, relaxing on beaches in Portugal and France in June. But the rest of her summer is devoted to Fuller's Flow, a multimedia installation that she is creating for the Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome in Montreal, a project she has been working on since 1999. "It was more fun last summer, when I spent every night testing the video projections," she says, "but now I have to finish the piece, which is a lot more pressure."

Summer is about getting back to work for Julian Laverdiere, shown here with Imperial Dragster (2002), a work in progress.
photo: Robin Holland
Summer is about getting back to work for Julian Laverdiere, shown here with Imperial Dragster (2002), a work in progress.

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One deadline after another faces Rona Pondick, here with details of Marmot and Dog, both from 1998–99.
photo: Robin Holland

Rona Pondick, whose recent show at Sonnabend has spurred an onslaught of requests for her work, is thrilled to have deadlines facing her all summer long. "I am anxious to see what these pieces are going to look like in the sunshine," says Pondick, who is currently finishing an outdoor installation at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts. From there, she will fly to the Netherlands, where she will oversee her show at the Groninger Museum. (The same show is also scheduled for the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Bologna.) "It's a very demanding time in my life, but I am so happy with the response to the work and what's happening in terms of people wanting exhibitions," Pondick says. (Her husband, painter Robert Feintuch, will be stuck in New York, working on his November show at CRG.)

For overseas artists based in New York, discovering America can be a break from the jet-lagged lifestyle. Ghada Amer, who went to Panama, Japan, and Sweden all in the month of June, is looking forward to seeing an "American beach." "I went once and it was a little bit savage—not like the Mediterranean," says Amer, who is hoping to visit her sister in North Carolina in August. Born in Cairo, Amer explains that Egyptian women cannot wear bathing suits at nearby beaches in Alexandria, so she and her family go to more liberal-minded resorts on the Mediterranean. "I am very uncomfortable flying, especially since September 11. I get searched a lot, every time," says Amer, "but if you don't travel, you don't work."

White-water rafting gives artist Oliver Herring and his boyfriend, painter Peter Krashes, a break from their usual routine. Herring, who recently showed new videos at Max Protetch in New York, took one week off in June for a canoe trip on the Penobscot River in Maine. "We have been going on these rafting trips for the last five years," says Herring. "They are cheap and adventurous, and you can't get farther away from the art world." With September shows coming up at Rhodes+Mann in London and Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris, the rest of summer means long days fighting the heat in his Brooklyn studio. "Frankly, I have to work my butt off," Herring sighs.

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