Hamptons Scene: Rubenstein of Nantucket, Kravis, Warhol

Apollo Global Management LLC’s Leon Black and economist Marie-Josee Kravis made rare appearances on the Hamptons social circuit last month when they attended a talk by Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein.

The event at the Guild Hall cultural center in East Hampton, a video of which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, was part of a series presented by the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies coinciding with an art exhibition.

Rubenstein trekked all the way from Nantucket for his July 20 appearance, prompting him to joke about the traffic on Route 27, the Hamptons’ main drag.

“I can fly from Nantucket here quicker than I can drive from East Hampton to Southampton,” Rubenstein said. “I can probably fly from Nantucket to Washington, D.C. quicker than you can drive from East Hampton to Southampton.”

Black and Kravis made the trip to Guild Hall from their homes in Southampton. The congestion couldn’t have been too bad on a Sunday morning, though; the event started at 11 a.m.

Both are trustees of the Museum of Modern Art, which honored Rubenstein with the David Rockefeller Award last year. Also, FAPE’s chairman, Jo Carole Lauder, is married to MoMA honorary chairman Ronald Lauder, whose stint as an ambassador led her to get involved in the non-profit, which aims to enhance the image of the U.S. by placing American art in embassies.

Famous Documents

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and a FAPE board member, interviewed Rubenstein, focusing on his patriotic philanthropy. The financier, who made his fortune in private equity, has bought copies of the Magna Carta, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Declaration of Independence. He worked with FAPE to make sure every embassy has a copy of the latter.

Rubenstein discussed diplomatic relations between the various Northeastern summer playgrounds. In his telling, everyone on Martha’s Vineyard thinks the people on neighboring Nantucket are Republicans, and everyone on Nantucket thinks the Vineyard dwellers are Democrats. The islanders don’t mix.

“It’s more likely that someone from Martha’s Vineyard will go to London than go to Nantucket,” according to Rubenstein, a former Carter Administration official who now says he avoids partisan politics.

How does Nantucket differ from the Hamptons?

Synagogue Scene

“There are no synagogues in Nantucket,” Rubenstein said. “Any synagogues in the Hamptons? I’m kidding.” (For the record, there’s one synagogue in Nantucket -- Congregation Shirat Ha Yam -- and five in the Hamptons proper, with more on the North Fork.)

And one more thing about Nantucketers: They “still like to pretend they’re not wealthy, it’s aw-shucks kind of people, down-home,” Rubenstein said.

The description prompted Walker to ask Rubenstein not to “go back to that little island with those people who all think we’re a bunch of Philistines over here.”

Rubenstein speaks today in Washington in a session at a U.S.-Africa business summit.

The following Sunday at Guild Hall, Oaktree Capital Chairman Howard Marks was in the audience with the Lauders and Robert Taubman for a FAPE panel discussing “Andy Warhol: Global Phenomenon.” The participants were Peter Brant, Donna De Salvo, Aby Rosen, Alberto Mugrabi, Jane Holzer and Larry Gagosian.

Next Panel

“The next panel should be Larry Gagosian: Global Phenomenon,” said Bob Colacello, who worked for Warhol, has written books on him, and as moderator, encouraged an illuminating discussion.

“I think I met him when he was working at the Union Square studio,” Gagosian recalled of the Pop Art pioneer. “I wanted to meet Andy Warhol so I kind of made a point of figuring out how to get over there. It was not a very auspicious meeting. I found him remote. But I was thrilled to have the opportunity.”

Later over “a typical Warhol lunch” of “diet soda and baloney sandwiches,” the budding gallerist saw a big painting of a Coca-Cola bottle in black and white. It was 1962. “I casually mentioned to Fred, you want to sell this painting?”

Maybe, said Fred Hughes, Warhol’s business manager. Then “they came up with a price and we did a deal. I didn’t buy it, I had a client who I knew would be interested in it, and the painting was sold that afternoon.”

‘Very Straightforward’

How Warhol worked is “a different world compared to the way many artists work today,” Gagosian said. “He worked by the seat of his pants in terms of his dealings with the market. He was very straightforward. There were no lawyers or middle men.”

“He naturally had the most acumen for business,” said Brant, one of his early collectors. “He knew what the right decision was. He was a voyeur, he looked at people in certain settings, and he really zeroed in on the right move.”

De Salvo, the chief curator of the Whitney, made a similar determination about Warhol’s business sense when she was at the Dia Art Foundation in the early 1980s, researching a show on his commercial work from the 1950s.

“I interviewed all these art directors who Warhol worked for,” De Salvo said. “His capacity to really understand what the client wanted was so superb. He could even suppress his own creative side to get the job.”

Warhol’s Stare

She also interviewed Warhol a few years before he died, in 1987, at age 58. “I was young and asked him stupid questions, like ‘How does it feel to be a postmodernist?’ and he’d just stare at me.”

De Salvo is working on a Warhol retrospective that will open in the new downtown Whitney building in 2018.

Aby Rosen, a landlord of hedge funds at Manhattan’s Lever House, collects Warhol’s commissioned portraits, which are on display at the building’s restaurant, Casa Lever.

“For me, one individual might not do, but having them in a group together, you see the interchange, the colors,” Rosen said. “The famous one is equally important as the un-famous one. The sports one is equally important as the movie star. I see them as one piece of art.”

Colacello said Warhol “always insisted” the size of these portraits be 40 inches by 40 inches. “When I asked him why, he said because someday I want them all put together in one big painting at the Metropolitan Museum.”

‘Must Have’

All the panelists bought Warhols for a song compared to what they go for today. Rosen said they are now a “must have,” and the “demand comes from everywhere. It is a currency. We all gravitate today to currency, something we can put a value to, that we think will maintain itself.”

A Warhol exhibition will take place Friday, Aug. 8 through Monday, Aug. 11 in the tasting rooms of the Wolffer Estate vineyard in Sagaponack, organized by the private sales department of Christie’s.

“We are featuring works that were in Warhol’s personal collection when he passed away, many have never been seen by the public,” Amelia Manderscheid, a specialist in post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, said in an e-mail. “We are featuring some photographs he took at his home in Montauk where he spent many summers vacationing.”

The more than 50 works, which Christie’s says are sourced by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, will be available for purchase at prices ranging from $2,000 (for a photograph of deck chairs) to $60,000 (for a paint-and-silkscreen portrait of golfer Jack Nicklaus).

Celebrity, popular culture and beach themes are all covered, with Polaroid prints of Cabbage Patch dolls, model Jerry Hall and writer Truman Capote; a drawing of a lobster, and a sunset screenprinted on paper. There’s also a $55,000 “Self-Portrait with Fright Wig” screenprint on a T-shirt.