The Southampton Salon

Oh dear, was our first thought. But maybe not. Loweth began collecting art eight years ago, educating himself with trips to ArtBasel, and now has a collection of some 80 works. He compares the premium priced artworks of, say, Pablo Picasso or Gerhard Richter with the Nifty Fifty, a reference to 50 hot large-cap stocks in the 1960s that investors were encouraged to buy regardless of price. They may be liquid investments, he explains, but they are also over­valued. Similar to how the Nifty Fifty fell out of favor in the 1970s and 1980s, Loweth predicts a crash in such high-priced artworks. That's not an entirely novel idea, of course. Concerns that an asset bubble exists at the high end of the art market have been discussed repeatedly in the pages of Penta. Check out, for example, our art wrap “Beware the Bubble” (Dec. 3, 2012).

So Loweth, perhaps not unwisely, is instead buying art in the “mid-cap space,” which he defines as the $30,000-to-$75,000 price range. Loweth figures there are 50,000 artists in New York City, with only 500 or so selling pieces above $30,000. If you diversify across 25 artists, he says, and buy what you love, “one of those artists will likely be a star, and you will at least be able to get your money back.”

If his Wall Street career is any indication, Loweth may know something about good entry and exit points. In 2010, he left Diamondback Capital Partners, a hedge fund he co-founded. A few months later, ­Diamondback was investigated in an insider-trading probe. Neither Loweth nor his two partners were ever implicated in any wrongdoing, but the hedge fund shuttered in January, unable to stay in business after it was fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading.

Loweth has since launched his new passion with flare. A couple of weeks ago, he hosted a glamorous art party at his Southampton, N.Y., home. There, amid thumping house music and cocktails, Loweth showcased three emerging artists: Spanish painter Domingo Zapata, with his reinvented cave paintings; plate-glass sculptor Henry Richardson, from Massachusetts; and Richard Dupont, from New York City, a producer of what is called in the biz “post-digital” art, works that have been influenced by modern technology.

Penta and other media were invited to attend the soiree, which was said to draw inspiration from the French art salons of the 18th century. Those served as platforms for judging art and exposing works to the general public. That night, Loweth told us he was trying to reinvent the ­salons for the 21st century. “If I could throw a party where my friends would get together, see great art, and meet the artists, it would be a great opportunity for them to learn,” he said. Of course, it was also an opportunity for Loweth to increase the value of his own collection. Loweth’s Southampton estate was filled with a continuous stream of Mercedes and BMWs lining his vast lawn, before being scattered throughout the grass by valets. Beneath a tented roof, glasses brimming with wine, the varied works of Zapata, Richardson, and Dupont were showcased.

Loweth not only owns works by the artists he showcased, but he also set an example by purchasing additional pieces at the party. With a portfolio of these “mid-caps” bought early and cheaply, he is talking up his artists and making a market for their works—partly through such buzz-creating lawn parties. Front and center on the grass was, for example, Richardson’s enormous glass orb, colored a gentle turquoise, light gleaming through the glass. Its edges were textured and ridged by a chisel; the tiers of glass cascaded like steps.

Zapata’s The Writing on the Wall—displayed across the tent’s canvas interior—was a series of recreated cave paintings from over 35,000 years ago, made modern by overlaid collages, graffiti, and poetry, the works attempting to capture timeless emotions like love. We know this is so because Zapata held forth on how “life continues on with the same feelings, even as humans themselves change.”

Meanwhile, Dupont’s sculpted polyurethane heads and spotted paintings seemed rather wan and wanting of emotion next to the pieces by Richardson and Zapata, but he clearly has a feel for contrasting mediums and textures, such as casting and painting. If any of these works become large-caps, count on Loweth to keep throwing such parties. That’s because today’s collectors are increasingly coming to the conclusion that promotion is an integral part of building a valuable collection.

Orb by Easthampton Artist Reflects Theme of Universality

"Part of the purpose of the piece is to provide a way in which anyone who looks at it can have an experience that is personal to them."

There is an ancient Kabbalistic myth that imagines at the time of creation a giant earthen vessel containing the light of goodness. The vessel slips from God's hands and tumbles toward the Earth, where it breaks into innumerable pieces. Those that have come to inhabit the Earth are charged with piecing the metaphorical vessel back together, one good deed at a time. In Hebrew, the phrase used is Tikkun Olam, which often translates "to repair the world," usually through acts of charity.

For Henry Richardson, an area glass artist with a studio at One Cottage Street, this story and the beauty of the word Tikkun captures the spirit of his newest project, the largest of his career. Since late summer, he has been literally piecing together a six-foot-tall orb out of cut and chipped blue-tinted plate glass. Even though the sculpture is hollow, he estimates it will weigh nearly 5,000 pounds when completed, involving 142 layers of epoxied half-inch glass.

"I was trying to find a simple term, a way to describe the positive universality of humanity," said Richardson, who got the idea for the name from a friend in New York. Not only did Tikkun capture the scope Richardson wanted his piece to address, but the many meanings of the word allowed the work to remain open to communication. Tikkun can also mean to heal and to help. "Part of the purpose of the piece is to provide a way in which anyone who looks at it can have an experience that is personal to them," he said.

Next week, Richardson will get a chance to find out what the rest of the sculpture world thinks about his piece, as he travels to Chicago in a rented truck with his partner, Lynda Hagaerstrom, and the fragile payload. Richardson has been granted a much-coveted place in the central hall of the Sculpture Objects Functional Arts Exposition later this week. The event is an annual showcase for the premier three-dimensional art galleries in the world, said Richardson. "It's a huge honor. This is very prestigious," he said. The placement is so prestigious, in fact, that several wealthy collectors and corporations expressed interest in purchasing the $100,000 piece before it was even completed. That selling price, if realized, will make the piece both a financial and artistic accomplishment, well worth the long nights, the nerve-wracking drive and even the removal of a door frame from One Cottage Street to get the globe out.

Richardson, a Northampton resident, has also been invited to speak to a Chicago Art Institute class about the technical difficulties of designing and executing such a large piece. Richardson used a computer model to figure the dimensions of the hundreds of individual glass arcs."You never know what will happen. If your math was bad, you'll come up with a banana," he said. At some point, he said he hopes that Tikkun finds a home in a public place, where people can interact with it on a daily basis, consider its size and symmetry and their own roles in the world.

By Michael Scherer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.