Phillips, a smaller rival to Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses, is opening a temporary space Friday in Southampton’s former town hall.

The two-story brick building, which most recently housed a Pottery Barn store, will now be used to preview paintings by blue-chip artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ruth Asawa, as well as watches and jewelry slotted for Phillips’s auctions.

“Like a lot of galleries, we are taking space out there,” Chief Executive Officer Ed Dolman said. “We’ll use it as an extension for our Manhattan salesroom to preview our fall season and also for private sales.”

Phillips has the lease on the building at the corner of Main Street and Hampton Road through at least year-end, Dolman said. It will initially be open by appointment to comply with Covid-19 restrictions. Dinners and opening receptions are “obviously inappropriate right now,” Dolman said.

East Hampton Star reported Phillips’s Southampton plans earlier.

The inaugural exhibition will include Basquiat’s 1982 painting “Portrait of A-One A.K.A King,” estimated at $10 million to $15 million and slated for auction in November, Phillips said. Another highlight is a hanging piece by Asawa, the late Japanese-American artist whose woven wire sculptures appear on U.S. Postal Service stamps. It’s estimated at $2 million.

Since June, New York galleries and auction houses have been setting up shop in the small villages on Long Island’s South Fork, where many of the city’s millionaires and billionaires have been sitting out the pandemic. Hauser & Wirth opened a Southampton outpost in July, as did Di Donna Galleries, which launched Sélavy, a “shoppable salon” for high-end art and design.

‘Relaxed Environment’
“It’s become a nice activity for people to get some culture, see some art, socialize with the dealers,” said David Schrader, head of private sales at Sotheby’s, which has been selling art and watches from an East Hampton storefront since June. “It’s a really relaxed environment. You never walk into Sotheby’s New York in a bathing suit and flip-flops.”

Christie’s took another route, making an arrangement with Parrish Art Museum to use its Water Mill location for private exhibitions. The company accommodated 300 clients for one-on-one viewings ahead of its relay-style $420.9 million auction in early July, a spokeswoman said.

It kept a room at the museum through the end of July, resulting in private sales of works by Andy Warhol and Basquiat, priced at more than $5 million, said Alex Rotter, chairman of Christie’s 20th and 21st centuries department.

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