While Sag Harbor may not be a famous regional art community like Provincetown, Sausalito, Taos (or obviously our very own Hamptons), it can be proud of its heritage as an important 17th and 18th century whaling village and its participation in the Revolutionary War. It’s that same history that gives Sag Harbor a unique look with its Main Street buildings and village houses, some dating from the 17th century and some from the Victorian era. It’s character that counts here. The fine arts galleries benefit greatly from this demeanor, unlike other South and North Fork towns.
Sag Harbor’s geography adds to the galleries’ charm: the surrounding water and marina; the side streets and back alleys; the yards filled with flowers and often sculpture, just perfect for an art opening. And yes, even climbing up to the second floor of a gallery space, with its twists and turns, is a pleasure. We’re not against “normal” art spaces, but it’s good to escape from the often sterile, large open spaces prevalent in other areas. Moreover, most Sag Harbor galleries are situated near each other. It makes for a cozy setting evoking little feelings of intimidation.
Sag Harbor’s gallery scene has other qualities besides physical ones, yet many of these exist in art communities everywhere. First, there’s a relatively high turnover in comings and goings: new galleries are established and others close up usually after less than five years. Gone forever are The Winter Tree, The Gallery and Merz. Delaney Cooke will be closing on September 6.
On a more positive note, this season welcomed the arrival of the Gail Schoentag Gallery (at Hampton and Jermain Streets, not in the village center), Winston Gallerie and Galleria Della Lupa. Each of these venues offers diversified styles. For example, the Schoentag presently features contemporary artists from Europe, like an animated, conceptual video by Irish-born Clare Langan and Florian Heinke’s expressionistic/surrealistic works from Germany. The Winston Gallerie also has contemporary pieces, including sculpture. Cubist-inspired paintings by Giancarlo Impiglia (who owns the venue) hang in Galleria Della Lupa.
Other more established galleries feature varied styles as well, including the Grenning, favoring old masters techniques, often by Ramiro, the Richard DeMato, often exhibiting narrative figurative portraiture and American Magic Realism. Tulla Booth shows different styles of photography. The 19-year-old establishment Romany Kramoris is the oldest venue exhibiting art, although it is not a fine arts gallery, per se. Owner Kramoris shows glass, jewelry, books and other objects, often hand-made. Her paintings by primitives—like Chris Engel and graphic novelist Jim Gingrich, for example—sometimes offer non-conventional worldviews.
The gallery directors/owners are equally diverse, considering their backgrounds. Many are professional artists themselves; a few are former businessmen and women. Regardless of the variations, however, we can say for sure that Sag Harbor galleries are alive and well.
“The Sag Harbor Fine Arts Scene” is brought to you by Phao restaurant in Sag Harbor. After strolling the galleries, you can visit Phao for fresh, modern Thai food at 29 Main Street or online at www.phaorestaurant.com.