At its Midsummer Party this Saturday, July 14, the Parrish Art Museum will honor both artist Keith Sonnier, whose work is currently on display at the museum in Water Mill, and Chad Leat, a Parrish trustee who is a former Citibank vice chairman of global banking in addition to being a patron of the arts.
Mr. Leat’s art collection includes pieces by Banksy, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Christopher Wool, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Wolfgang Tillmans, Ai Wei Wei, Donald Judd, Mary Heilmann and many others of note, as well as emerging artists.
In advance of the gala honoring him this weekend, Mr. Leat took a few questions on his relationship with art and with the Parrish in particular.
How did you begin collecting art?
I did not intentionally BEGIN collecting art but was fortunate to have many friends when I was in my 20s and 30s who were knowledgeable and encouraged me to buy. In particular when I was in my late 20s, just starting my career on Wall Street, an older couple, Jock Truman and his life partner Eric Green, became close friends and included me in their social life. Jock was retired then, but he was Betty Parsons’s right hand in her gallery. In my 30s, I was once again adopted by one of the greats, Holly Solomon. Holly would literally call me and occasionally demand that I buy a piece of art. In fact, Holly not only guided me on the acquisitions that hang in my Hamptons home, she hung and lit it as well. As my career progressed, I began purchasing art more regularly and with a bit more planning and purpose.
What do you look for when collecting art?
The most important thing for me is that I’m passionate about the piece. I tend to have things that I like to not only look at, but are interesting to think about and that creates a message that I personally find important or insightful.
What piece of your collection are you proudest of?
Given my disposition towards collecting things I am passionate about makes it difficult to single out a particular work. That being said, the two Mapplethorpe self-portraits (Man and Woman) are very special to me. I love Mapplethorpe as an artist, and I bought these two pieces when he was still alive—early in my life as a collector;
In what ways have you been involved with the Parrish Art Museum?
I was introduced to [Parrish Director] Terrie Sultan by my friend Preston Phillips the year before the Parrish’s new building opened. Terrie gave us a hardhat tour of the new building when it was about 70 percent complete. I was immediately in love with her and the building so when she and the board asked me to join them as a trustee, I was delighted to do so. I have been quite active in helping the museum with their outreach program for new trustees. Along with some key trustees we have worked hard to make the Summer Gala even more successful each year. It is a very important event for the museum financially and has indeed become a major event of the Hamptons season.
What are the benefits of supporting the arts?
When I joined the board of the Parrish, I thought the most meaningful part to me would be learning about art and the intricacies of running a museum. While I have learned a great deal about both of those topics, the big surprise and learning lesson for me has been understanding the importance that these institutions play within the community and the Parrish in particular. Giving back to the community is tremendously inspiring and extraordinarily personally rewarding. And, I feel far more connected to the Hamptons community as a result.
One fine body…