The Longhouse Reserve, a 16-acre sculpture garden and former home of the designer and collector Jack Lenor Larsen, is having a dinner on Saturday night, July 22. Tickets are $1,250, but they are pretty much sold out. Much to the relief of Carrie Rebora Barratt. “We weren’t sure we could sell a dinner,” says Barratt. “We didn’t know where our support could come from.”
“Over the past 18 months we have steadied that ship,” she says. “We have almost completely steadied that ship.”
If you don’t know the history, you may need a refresher course. When Jack Lenor Larsen died in 2020, there was a group devoted to the man who had been his longtime director. Longhouse Reserve had been Larsen’s home and run as a private foundation. It needed to become a 5013c and a public institution. It needed professional guidance.
To that end, Carrie Rebora Barratt was hired. She had been head of the New York Botanical Garden and before that had been at the Metropolitan Museum. New people joined the board of directors. Other people left. For a small institution, in a small town, that led to ill will. Was it a runway train, we asked? “It was not a runaway train,” Barratt said.
“There was a lot of finger-pointing and anger. That’s easier to handle than grief,” Barratt says. “How could Longhouse go on without him?”
Him being Larsen. But the institution had to change to survive. That’s what Larsen wanted. He died at age 93 and left $4 million as an endowment.
Barratt arrived eight months after Larsen died. Her background in gardens and art and interiors — Larsen designed textiles and collected art and crafts — made her the ideal candidate to be interim director.
“I wasn’t grieving because I didn’t know him,” she said. “I’m a grown up.” Earlier this year, her interim appointment was made permanent. There was no sit-down dinner last year, just a cocktail party. So Barratt worried about selling $1,250-a-ticket seats to a sit-down dinner.
She was wrong. Her Longhouse Reserve — with the new board, its initiatives, longer hours, a more open policy, a pledge to eliminate chemicals in the gardens, and all of the other strategic changes — has attracted an even more devoted crowd, and won back many of the doubters. The people coming to the event include Cindy Sherman, Robert Wilson, Laurie Anderson, Kiki Smith, Roseanne Cash, Bill T. Jones, and George Negroponte. The honorees are the artist Mary Heilmann and the writer A. M. Homes.
Called a Midsummer Night’s Dream, the event promises circus acts, a merman, someone on a horse, dancers, musicians, stilt-walkers, aerialists throughout the property along with the usual libations and food.
Dianne Benson, who was long the president of the board and is now head of the arts program, says, “It’s going to be completely fresh and different.”
“The pavilion will be empty in the middle in case it rains.”
Otherwise she expects the entertainers to take full advantage of the topography, including dunes, boulders and the ability to hang from a trapeze. “Our fantastic entertainment is all through the cocktail hour. These are magical people and we have have 16 gorgeous acres.”
She concludes: “Longhouse isn’t quite like any other place. It’s fantastic.”
Other Ways to Help Longhouse
You can participate without being there. Longhouse has an online auction on Artsy, Lots close on Monday, July 24, from noon on. The bidding midweek was hot for things like Lot 23, Ugo Rondinone’s “Small Green Mountain.” With an estimated value of $5,000, the 31 bids had already driven the price up to more than $9,000. Mind you, “Small Green Mountain” is a rock painted green and nearly five feet tall. It has to be shipped from East Hampton. Ideally it will not have to go far. We can’t estimate, but perhaps it weighs several thousand pounds? Maybe it’s not a real rock, Ugo?
Another piece inspiring heavy bidding is Cindy Sherman’s Lot 24 with an estimated value of $1,950. It is a piece of still film, mounted in a frame and hand-signed in 2022. There were already 28 bids on it by Thursday, and it was up to $4,250. No problem getting this one home.
But some lots had minimal interest, like Anni Albers silkscreen from 1983, valued at, $4,ooo, Lot 1, which had attracted only two bids. Or the photograph by Joe Gaffney, Lot 12, print 1 of an edition of 10, “Nureyev Makes Up – London 1973” valued at $3,000. No bidders at all so far.
Michael de Feo’s painting, “You and I under the last light of day” (2023) lot 8, was drawing attention. There were 15 bids, up to $13,000, against an estimated value of $30,000. The bidding closes on this lot at 12:07 pm on Monday.
And then, if the $1,250 tickets really are sold out, or you just want to dance, there is the late-night party, beginning at 9:30, for $175. What party in the Hamptons costs that little? It’s the cool part of the evening, and the cool people will still be there. The grounds are the same. The circus folk who were walking on stilts for the dinner guests will probably be on the dance floor by now. You know this is when the fun starts, and the party goes on until 11pm.
For that price, there is not just dancing but dessert and drinks. Tickets can be bought here.