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Hamptons Life

Aug 11, 2016 10:57 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Tim Bessell's Surfboard Art Goes On Display At Two Hamptons Galleries

Tim Bessell posing with his Andy Warhol surfboards.
Aug 14, 2016 6:59 PM

Tim Bessell has been shaping surfboards for more than four decades for those wishing to ride the waves with a high-quality, handcrafted board. Now, he’s proving to the East End that surfboards can be functional art pieces as well.

Two simultaneous exhibitions will display Mr. Bessell’s Andy Warhol surfboards and publicly launch his latest surfboard collaboration with artist Kenny Scharf. He printed digital images of the artists’ works on surfboards to create artwork that can either be hung on a wall as a sculpture, or brought to the beach for a surfing session.

“Traditionally, the art community has rejected functional art as being fine art. I consider functional art a higher level than fine art because it has to actually work,” Mr. Bessell said. “Like Chase Edwards and Gagosian and all these other galleries, they realize there is something quite special and unique about what I do.”

His Andy Warhol series will be showcased at Chase Edwards Contemporary in Bridgehampton, and his Kenny Scharf series will be at Dorian Grey Gallery in Water Mill. Both exhibitions, which run from August 20 through September 17, will have opening receptions on the evening of Saturday, August 20, during which guests can meet Mr. Bessell and discuss his creations.

The San Diego native, who grew up in the beach community of La Jolla in the 1960s and 1970s, has been surfing his entire life. After shaping his first surfboard at age 13, he found a passion for the craft that he turned into a professional career. He worked for a few surfboard manufacturers until he returned to La Jolla in 1982 and opened Bessell Surfboards.

He has shaped nearly 50,000 boards to date, and many of them were tailored to customers’ requests. His natural talent had made his name and his boards internationally recognizable, with distributors in several continents and permanent displays in galleries such as Gagosian in Manhattan.

“Boards today are a commodity product. Very little handwork is done on them. I hand-shape all of my boards in the traditional style,” Mr. Bessell explained. “They are very expensive compared to regular boards, but they are very cheap pieces of sculpture. It’s a great value for anyone who is collecting art.”

In addition to his surfboard business, he owns Bessell Gallery in La Jolla and a sustainable technologies business called Bessell Living Systems. He also co-founded the furniture design company Nomad Mobili and created paintings and sculpture that were displayed in galleries in Japan, California and New York City.

“I work all the time. My days are filled making stuff,” he admitted. “When I’m not working, I’m surfing. My wife and I both ride Warhols.”

After having exhibitions with both galleries last year—at the Manhattan location for Dorian Grey—the gallery owners were so impressed with his boards that they invited him back to show off his latest pieces.

The Dorian Grey Gallery, which focuses on urban street art and the emerging New York contemporary art scene, felt that the Kenny Scharf series fits perfectly with its theme. Mr. Scharf is a Los Angeles-based artist known for his urban style. In addition to creating paintings, installations and sculpture, he has done nearly 40 vibrant street art murals, including the one on the roll-down gate for the gallery’s Manhattan location.

“This [series] furthers the conversation that Tim had when he met Andy Warhol. Surfing is a very big part of the culture in America, and so is Andy Warhol’s pop art work. It’s the perfect kind of balance,” said Christopher Pusey, the gallery owner, exhibition curator and one of Mr. Bessell’s first New York dealers. “Kenny Scharf’s art has an urban aesthetic. He works with spray paint. This series carries that urban aesthetic onto something embedded in American culture.”

Mr. Bessell met Mr. Warhol in the early 1980s during the opening of the Playboy Club in New York City. In 2011, after years of considering Mr. Warhol his artistic idol, he was inspired to create his first Artist Series surfboards with Mr. Warhol’s iconic works. Since then, he has made more than 30 different limited-edition boards in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Foundation. Twelve of them will be on display at Chase Edwards.

All boards on display will be for sale at the galleries as well as on his website, timbessell.com.

Tim Bessell’s Andy Warhol surfboard series will be on display at Chase Edwards Contemporary, 2462 Main Street, Bridgehampton, and his Kenny Scharf series will be at Dorian Grey Gallery, 938 Montauk Highway, Water Mill. The public exhibitions will run from Saturday, August 20, through Saturday, September 17. The reception on opening night will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dorian Grey and 7 to 9 p.m. at Chase Edwards.

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