“Music, dance, theater, comedy, spoken word — and anything in between.” That’s the plan for Guild Hall’s future, new Director of Performing Arts Nick Schwartz-Hall told me at their gala. Likewise, the evening had everything: Ken Wyse’s Palm Beach contingency, Renée Cox’s celebration of black beauty, Leo Villereal’s artistic exploration of time and space, Jordan Roth’s sexually ambiguous glamour — and everyone 20s to 80s dancing like it was 1974.
Were the ghosts of Lee Krasner, Edward Albee, Gwen Verdon, and Truman Capote there as well? Executive Director Andrea Grover dreamed of them roaming their halls. Make that new halls. Guild Hall reopened in July. The John Drew theater will in the spring. Modernizing while retaining its historic character was “an expensive magic trick,” said Grover.
Among those stepping up to make it happen: donors Marty Cohen, Board Chairman, and his wife Michele, Nancy and Howard Marks, the Baron Family Foundation, Louise and Howard Phanstiel, Tom Roush and LaVon Kellner, Susie and Michael Gelman, and Linda Lindenbaum.
Evening emcee Jordan Roth helped raise more. Roth is the Ivy league educated, seven-time Tony winning producer, Jujamcyn Theaters President, one-of-a-kind Met Gala staple, influencing at the fulcrum of fashion and theater. Who influenced him? His late grandma, Sylvia. “She always turned it out!” he told me, “She lived quite nearby so she would just walk over to Guild Hall for drinks in the garden, gallery openings, to come and commune, visit and explore.”
I touched the gold watch my own grandma had given me, remembering how, when I was little, she would empty her jewelry boxes on the bed for us to play with.
Did Jordan play with his glamma’s clothes? “Of course. I mean look at me! She was in the jewelry business. She would go to the 47th Street Diamond District, fill up her purse with jewels and bring it back to New Jersey to sell to the ladies at the country club and the beauty shop, often right off her wrist and neck. She had great style and great joy. She made friends out of strangers everywhere she went.”
Many were there that night, remembering as Jordan told the room, how she “crowned herself the unofficial mascot of Guild Hall … and found so much joy, inspiration and community here ‘til her last day. My family and I are so grateful to everyone for always welcoming Sylvia as the queen that she was.”
I’d like to think PR maven Andrew Freedman’s spirit was there as well. “You should interview Jordan Roth,” he had told me on one of our visits during his last months. “He’s real New York power. And he dresses!”
Renée Cox, on the other hand, undresses. The main gallery debut show, titled Renée Cox: A Proof of Being, were photographic tableaus featuring her beautiful, strong, body. Let’s call it a double unveiling. “I found being nude, completely naked, very empowering,” she told me. “People stop, listen and are quite respectful when you present yourself like that. Because you have nothing to hide, no accoutrement or anything to put in a class, there’s great strength in it. In the black community, there can be a lot of self hatred. I’d like to instill self love among my people.”
She, too, is a long-time member of the community, with a second home in nearby East Hampton Springs since 1989. “One of my pieces is called Cousins at Pussy’s Pond,” Cox said. “I’ve been accused of making up the name. But it exists. Pussy’s Pond Park is actually out here across from the general store in the Springs.”
Her newest work, a multimedia kaleidoscope of imagery projected on walls, floor and ceiling, filled the back room. “The projection mapping is from soul culture,” Cox told me. “It’s about trying to get you out of your head to stop having all those negative thoughts, to stop feeling badly about yourself, and to give you some space of no thought, as the Buddhists would say.”
In another building, was the preview of Art World rock star Leo Villareal’s Celestial Garden (2023), a monumental light sculpture over 10 feet high and 28 feet wide, an array of LEDs diffused through a vinyl membrane.
He, too, is a local, standing in some ways, on the shoulders of those before him.
“It’s an honor to be part of the legacy of everything that’s happened artistically here,” Villareal told me. “I’m very inspired by Pollock and Lichtenstein. I am interested in the way artists work, breaking things down from a code perspective. What is a Rothko painting from an algorithmic perspective? My work is about a series of moments and evolution, but it’s non-repeating. I’m using time. It’s generative. There is no beginning, middle or end.
“I did a project in London called the Illuminated River with nine bridges over the Thames where I learned a lot about Turner, Whistler and Monet. And I think that has affected this body of work. There are these color patterns. But then, they’re used with a vinyl membrane that softens it. I think there’s a connection to the atmospheric quality that London has on the bridges.”
Helping bridge the new Guild Hall to the future were Host Committee members: Toni Bernstein, Mary Jane Brock, Marty Cohen, Florence Fabricant, Christina Isaly Liceaga, Susan Jacobson, Barbara Lane, Galia Meiri-Stawski, Pamela Pantzer and Laurie Sprayregen.
And: Myrna Daniels, Gina Gibney, Kim Heirston, Ed Hollander, Peter Pennoyer (the architect responsible for the renovation), Lisa Perry, Daryl Roth, Richie Jackson, Cynthia Rowley, Jeffrey Seller, Patsy and Jeff Tarr, Barbara Tober, Alex Vinash, and artists Ross Bleckner, Philippe Cheng, Jeremy Dennis, Ralph Gibson, Alice Hope, Bryan Hunt, Arcmanoro Niles, Toni Ross, Bastienne Schmidt, Julian Schnabel, Yvonne Force Villareal, Andrina Wekontash Smith, Robert Wilson, Lucy Winton, and Lisa Yuskavage.
Renée Cox and Chloe Misseldine, one of the ABT soloists that will perform for Guild Hall next week, were also at a “friend raiser” for Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) at the Amagansett home of Elizabeth Jacoby and Richard Brand. YAGP is the brainchild of Larissa Saveliev. Sho co-founded it with husband Gennadi to discover and nurture ballet talent.
The couple, who defected to America from the Bolshoi Ballet, pay it forward. They currently are helping relocate Ukrainian dancers. It’s a project close to their heart. Larissa’s mother was born in Odessa. One of those dancers, Vsevolod Mayevsky, who left the prestigious Russian Mariinsky Ballet company when Russia invaded his country, was there with Chloe to support their YAGP alma mater.
Larissa is mother hen to all. “She is always looking out for us, trying to find the best opportunities for me to dance, to grow, to meet new dancers, new people,” Chloe told me. “Both she and her husband taught me at the ABT studio company.”
Larissa may call Chloe one of her “babies,” but, it was Chloe’s real mother, Shanghai native Yan Chen, who led the way. Chen, a former ABT soloist, now teaches at their Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis school.
“Yes, I’m a nepo baby,”laughs Chloe. “But, I wouldn’t be in ABT without YAGP. My mom didn’t necessarily do anything. But I grew up with the company, watching the performances and walking around the studios when I was little, getting to know the coaches and dancers. Still, you have to put in your own work, a lot of it!”
Also putting in the work for the arts is interior designer Richard Mishaan, whose latest work is featured in the new coffee table tome, Richard Mishaan Design: Architecture and Interiors.
He joined Alex Papachristidis, who was signing The Elegant Life: Rooms That Welcome and Inspire, his latest hardcover, at interior designer Jeff Lincoln’s eponymous Hamptons design collective. Look book inspiration and cocktails as well!
And so, among hedgefunders behind the hedges, the Hamptons remain home to the arts. Nepo babies, artists, curators and the philanthropists that love them are part of our the mosaic that is the East End. Here, fueled by $90 lobster salads and $20 melons, talent is celebrated, beauty thrives.