Alexandra Stanton grew up immersed in the art world. Family trips to Sotheby's and New York galleries provided a holistic education in collecting, and now, the attorney and CEO of Empire Global Ventures LLC is lining the walls of her Water Mill home with an eclectic array of works, including a 250-pound Leilah Babirye sculpture that required "herculean efforts" to move into place. Ahead of this year's gala at the Parrish Art Museum, where Stanton serves on the Host Committee and is the co-chair of the Board of Trustees, the collector reflects on her first purchase, most challenging bids, and partying with the art world.
CULTURED: What do you think makes the Hamptons art scene distinct?
Alexandra Stanton: There are few places with such a concentrated artist community and rich artistic legacy as the Hamptons. Since the 1950s this area has been a haven for extraordinary artists, such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Roy Lichtenstein. Maintaining this legacy is a tremendous responsibility, and we have been honored to have Roy Lichtenstein’s widow, Dorothy, serve for many years as a trustee of the Parrish.
The East End of Long Island has been home to artists since the late 1890s, and many still live and work there today. Perhaps it is the proximity to New York, or perhaps it is how special the light is on Long Island, but the area has drawn artists here for decades and more recently, top-tier galleries such as Hauser & Wirth, Eric Firestone, The Drawing Room, and Mark Borghi have established a presence here as well.
As a result of both the legacy and the enriched art scene, the Hamptons is teeming with people who are passionate about art, including members of the year-round community, summer residents, and international visitors. These are the audiences that contribute to the vibrant art scene, and support the artists and the Parrish.
CULTURED: Where does the story of your personal collection begin?
Stanton: I grew up surrounded by art, in a home culturally rich and politically active. My parents and their friends collected, and during my childhood, my father would often take me on Sundays to Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Doyle’s, as well as to many Midtown and Uptown galleries, to see what was emerging in the art world. Back in the day, my parents acquired pieces by de Kooning, [Jean] Dubuffet, [Helen] Frankenthaler, as well as by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Miriam Schapiro, and Faith Ringgold. So, I would say that the desire to both be surrounded by beauty and with works that had something to say was learned at home.
CULTURED: In working on your Water Mill home, how did you make a plan for displaying your collection? What did you envision or hope to capture?
Stanton: From the beginning, we built our public spaces around the art we owned and hoped to acquire. The foyer, library, living room, and dining room, were all designed around specific pieces by Tomashi Jackson, Angel Otero, Sheree Hovsepian, Barthélémy Toguo, and Rashid Johnson. Later, when we acquired the large Leilah Babirye sculpture, we knew it would have a home in our living room.
CULTURED: What is the first piece you ever bought?
Stanton: The first piece I ever bought myself was by Priscilla Heine. It was at the Arlene Bujese Gallery on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. My parents took me there when I was younger and when I saw this work, it was the first time I felt I wanted to take a piece home. I remember walking in and seeing the work—a bright yellow abstract gutsy piece, large yet with terrific, balanced movement—and it moved me. I knew I wanted to live with it. It now hangs in my son’s room, so we can both enjoy it.
CULTURED: Which work or works provokes the most conversation from visitors?
Stanton: The large abstract Angel Otero painting in our foyer immediately draws everyone’s eyes, so that sparks the conversation. When people move into the living room, the Leilah Babirye sculpture demands their attention.
CULTURED: What factors do you consider when expanding your collection?
Stanton: We go to galleries and shows and we look for artists with a rich and original vision. We must viscerally love the works and want to live with them.
CULTURED: What was the most challenging piece in your personal collection to acquire?
Stanton: The Leilah Babirye sculpture was by far the most challenging piece to acquire. At nearly eight feet tall and 250 pounds, it is so physically imposing that simply bringing it home required herculean efforts. Now that the sculpture is where she should be, she towers over our guests and reminds them that art can dominate, even when silent.
CULTURED: Is there one piece that got away, or that you still think about?
Stanton: We have been fortunate to collect our artworks and are massively grateful for their presence. So, we don’t worry about what might have been.
CULTURED: What are you most excited about at this year’s Midsummer Gala?
Stanton: This year, we celebrate the unique achievement of the Parrish Art Museum and its 125 years serving as a cultural magnet for the East End artistic community. During that time, it has provided both world-class exhibitions and extensive resources for local residents to enjoy.
The Parrish’s Midsummer Gala is a terrific moment to honor the artists, curators, collectors, and patrons who helped us arrive at this moment. Our Gala chairs, longtime supporter Debbie Bancroft and new board member Aliya LeeKong, have done a fantastic job helming this event.
Many artists will be joining us for the festivities, all of whom have work on view in the landmark, year-long exhibition "Artists Choose Parrish." This exhibition features artwork by 41 contemporary artists shown next to pieces they’ve selected from our permanent collection, side by side in dialogue. The outcome is both fresh and moving.