To Learn About Art, Party With the Artists

This weekend, Chad Loweth, a real-estate investor who had previously worked in the finance and hedge-fund industries, hosted what he called an art salon on the farm field at his Water Mill home. Mr. Loweth said he was at Art Basel in Miami Beach last year with several couples. "If you go to those events, there's so much in one place, it can be pretty mind-numbing," he said. Among several of his friends, who he described as "well-off but workaholic type people," the subject of understanding contemporary art and navigating the art market came up.

As an art patron with eclectic tastes, Mr. Loweth said he keeps up with what's going on at art shows and at auction houses. "Your taste changes the more educated you become," he said. Typically he tells friends, "Don't rush out and buy a lot. Do it slowly.""People would say, 'I saw so many beautiful things, but can you help me understand why something's $12 million, $2 million, $550,000 or $50,000?'" recalled Mr. Loweth. "The more people I talk to, the more I get the same response. Spending money on art scares them."

Mr. Loweth said he also tries to convince friends to buy what they like, "something that will make you happy when you see it every day." And it helps to get to know the artist whose work you might be interested in. "That way, when someone comes to your house and asks you to tell them about the work, you can," Mr. Loweth said. So over the weekend, he invited three artists whose work he collects and who he knows personally—Domingo Zapata, Richard Dupont and Henry Richardson—to bring some of their art and mingle with invited guests under a tent.

"I'd never heard of anything like this," said Mr. Richardson. "It wasn't a gallery show and it wasn't an art show. It wasn't really with an intent to sell, but just to get people to see the work and do it in a way that was actually fun. It was really a blowout party." Mr. Richardson, however, brought along four large-scale sculptures, including a 4½-foot orb and a 7-foot twisted column, and wound up selling three out of four of them.

Mr. Loweth invited several art-world professionals to help make the evening educational, including Scott Howe, the deputy director of the Parrish Art Museum. He wanted to make sure his guests understood that they should be going to museums to see what work is there. "For free you can go over and see a long-term vision of this Switzerland, as Scott from the Parrish called it," Mr. Loweth said. "They're not a gallery, they're not trying to sell you anything. But they do have a tremendous expertise." Mr. Howe said his friends don't typically use museum visits to do that kind of thing.

He added that he didn't participate in the sale of any of the work at his house, but being a collector of the work of Messrs. Dupont, Zapata and Richardson, "I economically benefit on my art." The evening wasn't just expensive for him on the hosting side, but he also wound up buying a piece of each of the artist's work. "I don't know if my wife will let me do it again," he joked.

"To me, it wasn't the typical kind of Hamptons party where a billionaire shows off his extensive art collection with a performance by a famous singer for supermodels and his executive friends," said Mr. Loweth. "I'm not a billionaire and Billy Joel didn't come to sing. That's not what I was trying to achieve. This is about my friends coming and learning something, having fun and meeting an eclectic group of interesting people." Wall Street Journal.