The mood at the Parrish Art Museum’s annual Midsummer Party was as ebulliently charged as honoree Keith Sonnier’s neon sculptures that electrified the gallery and festooned the dinner. On display Keith Sonnier: Until Today, the artist’s first solo exhibition in 35 years in an American museum. “I don’t think the Museum has ever looked better than it does right now with Keith Sonnier’s art,” the evening’s other honoree, Chad Leat, told us. “The whole spine and the galleries are just breathtaking.” A second retrospective, of its Permanent Collection: Five and Forward, celebrated five years in the Museum’s sweeping new Water Mill home.
Museum Director Terrie Sultan hosted the night. Fern and Lenard Tessler; Milly and Arne Glimcher were Honorary Co-Chairs. Deborah F. Bancroft, Laura Lofaro Freeman and James L. Freeman, Caroline Hirsch and Andrew Fox, Denise LeFrak, Christina and Alan MacDonald, Sandy and Stephen Perlbinder, Frederic M. Seegal, Marcia Dunn Sobel, and Joey Wölffer comprised the Host Committee.
“We’ve resurrected the Junior Party this year,” said Parrish stalwart Debbie Bancroft, “And my daughter Serena is on the committee.”
To reboot the concept, they reached out to Larry Millstein to chair. “We’ve been drawing inspiration from Keith Sonnier’s work,” Millstein told us, “which is so about neon and after party and the glow.” But, it’s no longer just an “after party. It’s a late night party – an entirely independent event for young members. And we did not expect this ground breaking level of interest and the amount of people who are coming in our first year!”
As she looked around, Board of Trustees Co-President Alexandra Stanton pronounced the Midsummer Party “a sell-out crowd in an optimistic space.” Frederic M. Seegal is Board of Trustees Chair and Mary E. Frank serves as Co-President. “The Museum does over 200 events a year and provides arts education for thousands and thousands of kids in Suffolk County,” Stanton continued. “So it’s really heartening to see how the Museum has grown in its space into a new and augmented identity.” A networking force, Stanton had 19 at her table and knew about 25 percent of the vast room. “But how happy for a trustee to not know 75 percent,” she said. “I have been on this board almost a decade and to see all this fresh new blood and enthusiasm is very exciting. People come for the art and for the commitment to Long Island, some, because they love the Parrish Road Show that we do in the community outside the walls of the Museum. And I’ve seen parents here because of the amazing family art party we do, where real working artists come in for a day in August to work with children.”
Honoree Chad Leat’s love affair with art was fueled by Wall Street bonus checks. “The first artists that I bought as a collector were Keith Harring and Robert Maplethorpe,” he told us. “How lucky was that?! My first friend in the art world was Betty Parsons’ main gallery manager, Jack Truman. He really started me off in my art career. Then I got to be good friends with Holly Solomon. She was a rocket ship. Each year after I’d get my bonus check on Wall Street, instead of spending it on something frivolous, I’d buy a piece of art.”
Despite the obvious financial success he’s had with those purchases, he says, “I don’t collect art with a plan of value creation like you do in stocks. What art has given me is not just a hobby: it’s a passion. And I get to live with it.”
Keith Sonnier: Until Today was made possible, in part, by Barbara Slifka, Compass, Linda Hackett and Melinda Hackett/ CAL Foundation, The Evelyn Toll Family Foundation, Gillian Spreckels Fuller, and the Herman Goldman Foundation. Other supporters include Sandy and Stephen Perlbinder, Fred and Robin Seegal, Michele and Steven Pesner, William and Bettina Cisneros, Michael Straus, and Ellen Cantrowitz.
Art world luminaries that filled the Herzog & de Meuron-designed building included: Alice Aycock, artist; Christine Berry, Berry Campbell Gallery; Ross Bleckner, artist; Dianne Blell, artist; Michael Combs, Artist; Justine Compton and Nicholas Wentworth, Century Arts Foundation; Donna De Salvo and Adam Weinberg, Whitney Museum of American Art; Eric Freeman, artist; Milly and Arne Glimcher, Pace Gallery; Barry Holden, architect; Rashid Johnson, artist; Mel Kendrick, artist; Danielle Lauder, actress; Bonnie Lautenberg, artist; Don Lemon, CNN; Louis K. Meisel, Louis K. Meisel Gallery and Susan Meisel, artist; Lida Morley; Preston T. Phillips, architect; Campion Platt, architect; Dorothea Rockburne, artist; Toni Ross, artist; Jonathan Sheffer, composer; Billy Sullivan, artist; Donald Sultan, artist; Francesca Valerio, Robert Lehman Foundation; Robert Wilson, The Watermill Center; Stephen Wilson, artist; Nina Yankowitz, artist.
Collectors and Philanthropists included: Deborah F. Bancroft; Ann and Keith Barish; Bryan Baldwin; Randy Barker; Graeme Basson; Jeremy Batoff; Murat Beyazit; Geoffrey N. Bradfield; Stormy Byorum; Janna Bullock; Shelley and Michael Carr; Sean Cohan; Ann and Geoff Coley; Cary Davis; Timothy G. Davis; Carey Dorman; Gale and Ira Drukier; Sam Ender; Joseph Fichera; Elena Ford; Mary and Howard Frank; Laura Lofaro Freeman and James Freeman; Gillian S. Fuller; Sharon and Jay Goldberg; Alexander Hankin; Ashley Leeds and Christopher Harland; Kim Heirston; Peter Hext; Caroline Hirsch; Andrew Jacono; Richard James; Ellen and Howard Katz; Bruce Kayle; Sarah Kayle; Serena Kerrigan; Daniel Klaus; Denise LeFrak; Christina and Alan MacDonald; Tim Malone; Sterling McDavid; John McGinn; Larry Milstein; Toby Milstein; Alexandra Munroe and Robert Rosenkranz; Mary Kathryn and Alex Navab; Dara and Timothy O’Hara; Maren Otto; Antonia Paterno-Castello; Sandy and Stephen Perlbinder; Alan Poul; David Powers; James Quinn; Patti and Mark Renton; Louise and Len Riggio; Michael A. Rubenstein; Lindsay and Drew Schulte; Robin and Fred Seegal; Jean and Martin Shafiroff; Alexandra Stanton and Sam Natapoff; James Stanton; Jane and David Walentas; Keith Weiner; Carol and Michael Weisman; Vivian and James Zelter.
Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information, call 631-283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.