Renowned American artist Robert Longo should have been readying for his solo exhibition at Guild Hall earlier this year. But, with the pandemic, most plans went out the window. Instead, after learning that the East Hampton institution would have to cancel its signature summer fundraiser, Longo decided to focus his efforts towards All for the Hall, an exceptional artist-organized benefit exhibition for the multidisciplinary center, which has been an East End staple since 1931.
“Artists have always been and always will be our greatest resource and inspiration,” said Andrea Grover, Guild Hall Executive Director. “To have so many members of our brilliant East End artist community step in and donate their work to support Guild Hall at this critical time creates a debt of gratitude that is hard to express. It is a demonstration of the power of the arts to ignite civic participation and the power of collective artistic action.”
We chatted with Longo about All for the Hall, the importance of Guild Hall, the allure of the East End and more.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, you were preparing for a major retrospective at Guild Hall. But, after learning that the East Hampton-based Center for the Visual and Performing Arts would have to cancel its annual summer gala, you decided to postpone your exhibition and take on a benefit exhibition instead. Could you speak to that decision?
RL: My Guild Hall exhibition was not going to be a retrospective, but rather a large-scale solo exhibition. I made the decision to cancel the show because it did not seem appropriate to proceed with a one-person exhibition of my work when it became clear that Guild Hall would be forced to cancel their major fundraiser, which was scheduled to run concurrently with my exhibition. The focus instead needed to be on Guild Hall. So much of their annual operating budget relies on this fundraiser, so it was vital to come up with something that would help fill the void during a time of such financial uncertainty. I realized that instead of having a show of my work, I should organize a benefit.
For All for the Hall, you have enlisted 60 notable artists to showcase their works. How did you decide whom to include?
RL: I started by reaching out to friends – such as Cindy Sherman, Rashid Johnson, and Eric Fischl – and then I contacted artists who had shown at and benefited from Guild Hall. Once word got out, more and more people volunteered to contribute work.
Is there a theme throughout the works?
RL: The one through line connecting all of the artists is a generosity of giving and an acknowledgment of the importance of Guild Hall.
You donated Study of Angel Wing to All for the Hall. What was the inspiration behind that work?
RL: I wanted to contribute a work that would represent some sense of hope. I drew the wing in a way that it would make it feel particularly bright and ethereal.
For you personally, what does Guild Hall mean to the community?
RL: Guild Hall has been a significant fixture of the East End for nearly 90 years. It is a critical cultural institution that provides art, theater, classes, and programs. It is essential to the community. Artists have been visiting the East End since the 19th century.
What is it about the area that attracts the creative community?
RL: Nature attracts artists here. I see Abstract Expressionism in so much of the landscape. It is extremely beautiful and serene out here. New York City feels as if it is a million miles away.
Has a new date been set for your solo exhibition at Guild Hall?
RL: My exhibition at Guild Hall is scheduled for next summer, which will coincide with Guild Hall’s 90th anniversary.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
RL: I am grateful that so many wonderful artists generously contributed to help an important institution. Watching the artistic community here so swiftly come together in support of Guild Hall has been extraordinary. It is really important that the audience realizes that artists banded together to aid this institution, to save this institution. Guild Hall now needs other members of the community to support the fundraiser in order to complete the equation.
All for the Hall will be on view August 8 through December 31.
Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, visit www.guildhall.org.