A new art fair arrives to The Hamptons, bringing with it a laid-back approach to presenting contemporary art from galleries from Downtown New York City and East Hampton Village. Planned before the art fair exodus that has defined the summer of 2017, the new intimate art fair is the brainchild of Harper Levine of Harper's Books in East Hampton and Bill Powers of Half Gallery in NYC. It began as a casual conversation to explore if it would be possible to present a handful of galleries in small format, said Levine recently in an interview at his East Hampton Village rare book shop and gallery. Setting their sights on Amagansett—a midway point between Montauk, where Powers has a home, and the art center of East Hampton—the former Amagansett Applied Arts Building sprung to mind, said Levine.

The building formerly housed an art school, a ceramic studio and the workshop of Elizabeth Dow, a wallpaper designer, interior designer and artist, now located in East Hampton Village. The building owner green lighted the idea, the men rented the second floor only of the building, and the Upstairs Art Fair was born. The pair reached out to galleries in their respective neighborhoods and selected those with edgy contemporary art programs that also champion artists emerging or those who may be. A slate of 13 galleries make up the new Upstairs Art Fair, which holds its inaugural edition July 14 to 16, 2017. VIP preview will be held Friday, July 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. with the fair opening afterwards from 6 to 10 p.m. The fair continues Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Exhibiting galleries are Ceysson & Bénétière; half gallery; Halsey McKay Gallery; Harper's Books; James Fuentes; KARMA; Magenta Plains; New Release; Rachel Uffner Gallery; Rental Gallery; The Fireplace Project; and yours mine & ours. All of the exhibiting galleries—except for three—have exhibited at NADA art fairs in Miami or New York. NADA fairs are produced by the National Art Dealers Association, a non-profit organization devoted to the cultivation and support of new contemporary art.

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"Untitled (Guest House)" by Joel Mesler, 2017. Pigment on linen, 48 x 40 inches. Courtesy of Harper's Books.

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NADA connections aside, the idea for the Upstairs Art Fair from the get-go was to present a selection of East Hampton galleries and New York ones who typically wouldn't be represented during a Hamptons summer, said Powers in a phone interview. Another integral component was shaking up the way art is presented in the Hamptons, he said. A side benefit is adding to the recent gallery and museum tradition of presenting art in unusual places during a Hamptons summer. Pop ups have been appearing in private barns, state parks, computer shops, vacant lots and broaden the places and the ways people can experience contemporary art in the beachside community which is known for its celebrities, mansions and galas as well as for its artist community and bucolic natural views.

"We want to reshuffle the deck and present art and the artists in a way that hasn't happened before," said Powers. "I think the market is in flux. People want to experience art in different locations and in different ways other than galleries and art fairs. It's another evolution."

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"Pink Porch" by Daniel Heidkamp, 2017. Oil on paper, 14 x 10 1/4 inches. Courtesy of Harper's Books.

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The Upstairs Art Fair was set in March 2017 before announcements by Art Southampton and Art Hamptons they were not returning to present their summer art fairs in The Hamptons. As such, the concept for the Upstairs Art Fair was never meant as a replacement but as its own unique experience, said Levine.

"We both tend to work organic," Levine said of he and Powers. "We talked about what could happen if we brought together friends and artists. There's a lot of creativity that went into this. It should be a good alternative as a way to see art. I'm pretty tired of fairs, pretty tired of standing on lines and pretty tired of drinking champagne. This is why we began looking for another way to provide an authentic experience to see art with a group of galleries."

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"Quid Pro Quo" by Zach Bruder, 2017. Acrylic and flashe on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. Courtesy the artist and Magenta Plains.

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Even more than creating a unique experience was the idea of creating conditions where the art comes first, said Levine. That way, the art can be thoughtfully examined versus being part of a scene and object for decoration, he said. "We wanted to be self-limiting to create an intimacy and a community that's trying to foster art," said Levine. "Art is personal and it's not just something for a decorative space. We want this to be more about the relationship between the collector and the work and the ability to speak to someone who has thought about the work, instead of being advised by an interior designer who is decorating a space, is overspending and may not know something about the work. You can come by [the Upstairs Art Fair] and interact with the galleries there, see some cool art and get something for not a lot of money."

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"Upside Down Ben" by Nicole Wittenberg. Oil on canvas, 72 x 54 inches. Courtesy of the artist and yours mine & ours.

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The Upstairs Art Fair also provides an opportunity for new galleries to widen their reach and get their first taste of an art fair. Magenta Plains and yours mine & ours are both under 18 months old. Both are manned by experienced gallerists and art dealers who formed new alliances to found their respective galleries. Having friends and neighboring galleries participating alongside them at the Upstairs Art Fair is something both galleries are looking forward to. So is presenting their artists to a new collector base that extends beyond NYC and the LES, where both galleries are located.

"What I like about this fair is that we all know each other," said Magenta Plains gallerist Olivia Smith, a few days before the fair opened. "This is our first fair experience. We hope to do more, as we're able, but we're more interested in building a foundation for our gallery so we can support the art in the way that we feel it deserves. This is a way to dip our toe in the water."

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"Havana Hotel" by Melissa Brown, 2014. Oil on panel, 8 x 8 inches. Courtesy the artist and Magenta Plains.

"Havana Hotel" by Melissa Brown, 2014. Oil on panel, 8 x 8 inches. Courtesy the artist and Magenta Plains.

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Magenta Plains focuses on artists of various age demographics, mirroring the interests of the trio of gallery owners, said Smith. Painting is an integral part of their program and will be represented at the Upstairs Art Fair through a group show. The gallery plans to show work by Melissa Brown, Zach Bruder and Bill Saylor.

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"Brad in the Hammock" by Nicole Wittenberg, 2016. Ink and oil on paper, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist and yours mine & ours.

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In contrast, yours mine & ours decided to present a solo show of new works by Nicole Wittenberg. Taking the form of a curated exhibition "Nicole Wittenberg: Boys of Summer," the work is consistent with Wittenberg's focus on making art portraying men and body exploration, said gallerist R.J. Supa.

The works selected for Upstairs Art Fair conjure men as dreamboats and appear as portraits of intimate moments remembered, with expressive lines leading the way into fantasy. Earlier works by Wittenberg portrayed men pornographically. Her art is made from live models where sketches are made and inform the paintings that follow, said Supa.

Wittenberg's new works seemed a perfect fit for Amagansett and the Hamptons at large with its vibrant surf culture and beach scene, said Supa. The exhibition provides a solid introduction to Wittenberg's work and the gallery. Aptly named the "boys of summer," the art channels the freedom the season can bring and the men that inspire art, sex and love and the excitement and joy of being alive and free, according to the gallery.

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"Bed Reclining Study" by Nicole Wittenberg, 2017. Ink on paper, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist and yours mine & ours.

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BASIC FACTS: The Upstairs Art Fair is being held July 14 to 17, 2017 at 11 Indian Wells, Amagansett, NY 11930. A VIP Preview is being held Friday, July 14, 2017 from 4 to 6 p.m. The fair opens to the public immediately afterwards from 6 to 10 p.m. It continues Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. For details, visit www.upstairsartfair.com.

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Copyright 2017 Hamptons Art Hub LLC. All rights reserved.

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