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Hamptons Life

Jul 23, 2012 12:57 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Inaugural Art Southampton

Jul 24, 2012 9:06 AM

Alexandra Fairweather was 2 years old when her mother, Prudence, found herself a new boyfriend.

Early on, the young girl and the man had a unique bond. When she was 5, Ms. Fairweather—who is now 22—asked him, “Who is the most famous artist?” she recalled during a telephone interview last week. The duo discussed the work of post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh and the legacy that abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock left behind on the East End, not far from the family’s home on Shelter Island.

It wasn’t long after her mom and the man that she loved married on June 9, 1996 that the young girl realized her own stepfather sat among the greats himself. He was John Chamberlain, the man solely responsible for famously retooling automotive metal, among other materials, into abstract sculpture and single-handedly giving the craft a place in the world of art.

“I always considered him a parent. As I got older, I realized he was a great American artist,” Ms. Fairweather said. “He would always say the two hardest occupations in the world are, first, a parent and, second, an artist. Those were basically his two passions: parenting and being an artist.”

Over the next couple of decades, the two became even closer. But on December 21, 2011, Mr. Chamberlain died at the age of 84—eight years after his stepdaughter first picked up a video camera and began shooting him everywhere he went—from working in his studios and traveling the world as an artist to quiet family moments at home as a husband, father and friend.

The completed film, “HEAARTBEAT,” will premiere on Thursday, July 26, at the opening night of the inaugural Art Southampton, an international contemporary fair presented by Art Miami, which will be held here on the East End in a 75,000-square-foot pavilion on the grounds behind the Southampton Elks Lodge.

“In the movie, Chamberlain says that he wants to go out into the world and make your heart beat,” Ms. Fairweather explained. “That’s part of how the title came about. It’s in caps because Chamberlain, starting in about 2005, started writing all his titles in caps. And he always had a fascination with caps. If I ever wrote him a letter, it had to be in caps. ‘It has to be in caps because it has more meaning.’”

She laughed to herself and continued, “A lot of the time, Chamberlain’s titles had an extra letter, that’s why I added the extra ‘A.’ And one thing that Chamberlain would say was, ‘What beats?’ He didn’t like the expression, ‘How are you?’ He liked when I’d ask, ‘What beats?’”

The legendary artist’s work set the stage for modern sculptors today, including Andrew Levitas, whose large-scale pieces will flank the entrance to Art Southampton. In 2004, Mr. Levitas trademarked his artistic process, called “Metalwork Photography,” which involves the transfer of photographs onto custom transparencies that are melted onto hand-etched metal sheets. The result is a work that combines the imagery of a photograph with the presence of a sculpture.

“I’m most inspired by perspective and the ways in which our individual truths and emotions interact and reflect on the world, and back upon ourselves,” the 34-year-old artist wrote in an email. “My work grows as my courage and my life has grown. I don’t know what is next. When I don’t have anything left to say, I’ll stop.”

Art Southampton comes on the heels of ArtHamptons and artMRKT Hamptons, two of the major art fairs on the East End that were held earlier this month. But founder and director Nick Korniloff, who grew up in New Hyde Park, says the third one will be the charm.

“That was our strategy,” Mr. Korniloff said of the fair’s timing during a telephone interview last week while he was driving up from Florida to the East End. “Our model is completely different than the other two shows. It’s, truly, an international fair. The prices of artwork, you can buy anything from a couple thousand to a couple million. You’ll see great work from Germany, you’ll see it from the UK, you’ll see it from great New York galleries, Asia and from the Hamptons. I don’t really predict, I’m not a predictor, but I can tell you I believe it’s going to be successful. I believe it has a bright future.”

So does Ms. Fairweather, who is the director of Gallery Valentine in East Hampton. She said Art Southampton was the “perfect venue” to debut her film, based on the reputation of Art Miami, which is in its 23rd year. It was almost as natural as her decision to begin filming her stepfather at age 14, she said. Her entire family has always had an obsession with film, she said, particularly old movies. In fact, Mr. Chamberlain once wanted to be an actor, she said.

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