Manhattan’s high-end art world is heading east.

Two blue-chip Upper East Side galleries and Sotheby’s private sales group rented adjacent spaces on Newtown Lane in East Hampton, next to the popular Babette’s restaurant and a few blocks from the town’s small gallery district.

The moves come almost three months into the lockdown that closed galleries, museums and auction houses in New York to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and sparked an exodus of wealthy Manhattanites to the small villages on the South Fork of Long Island. Billionaire collectors Ron Perelman and Dan Loeb, for example, have homes in East Hampton.

“No one was coming to the building at York Avenue,” said David Schrader, head of Sotheby’s private sales worldwide. “So we thought: ‘Why don’t we bring what we have to where the people are?”

The galleries are joining other New York companies that have expanded operations in the tony seaside towns. Avenues, a private for-profit school in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, where tuition is $56,400 a year, plans to open a branch in the Hamptons in September. Carbone restaurant from the West Village popped up in Southampton this week. Marea and the Smith are doing Friday deliveries with instructions on how to finish meal kits at home.

“A lot of our friends and clients are here,” said Christophe Van de Weghe, who has owned a house in East Hampton for 20 years. “This summer, nobody is traveling. Everybody is staying here.”

He said he hopes to open in coming days, with works by Picasso, Basquiat and Lichtenstein.

Boarded Up
Per Skarstedt committed to the space sight unseen, after Van de Weghe suggested he take it. His galleries in New York and London have been closed since March and one Manhattan location is now boarded up because of the protests against police brutality.

He said he hopes to open on June 17, by appointment, with works that will be also featured in his Art Basel virtual booth, including paintings by KAWS and de Kooning, with prices ranging from $300,000 to $8.5 million.

“People are getting tired of looking at JPEGs and virtual exhibitions,” Skarstedt said. “It’s hard to sell something for $8.5 million as a picture. It’s much nicer to have it hanging on the wall.”

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