The Wee Hours: High-Performance Hamptons

The Observer drives a $200,000 Ferrari California around wooded curves, hugging each one and swerving, despite not having been behind the wheel in years.

nyohamptonsfin The Wee Hours: High Performance Hamptons

Means of transportation.

“DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO an evil laugh?” asked the 10-year-old son of artist Lee Quinones, standing last Friday in the packed and tiny Eric Firestone gallery, an art space slotted in a nook between East Hampton fashion stores.

The sun had not yet gone down and the attendees had dragged their kids, pets and other accessories to the opening. There was plenty of rosé and men in suspenders. Women stood in harried circles outside, smoking and talking.

Many of the little ones were the artists’ children. Even among that voluble crowd, the miniature Mr. Quinones was quite the talker. He was standing below the nose of an old military plane—junk in a junkyard, once, but now salvaged and made into art by his father. Mission Accomplished, it was called, and like the other works, it embraced, or maligned, American iconography. The exhibition, which opened last Friday and runs until Aug. 21, was called “Nose Job,” named for both Warhol’s before-and-after schnoz pics and the front parts of fighter jets. Each piece was rendered from parts from the galloping mess of steaming iron known as the Bone Yards, scrap heaps in the Arizona desert housing dead metal once tossed into combat by the Air Force.

“An evil laugh?” The Observer asked.

The show also brought out the locals, or whatever a “local” is in East Hampton. A woman in her 80s, pastel sweater flung and tied across her nape and back, applied red lipstick and leaned into another conic art work, this one by of-the-moment artist Dan Colen, that was blank save for the rouge remnants of kisses. “Like Oscar Wilde’s grave,” an onlooker said loudly.

“Yes, a deep laugh, like this,” Mr. Quinones demonstrated.

He leaned into a nose cone fashioned as a sergeant’s megaphone by Shepherd Fairey, about to laugh into the echo chamber. Mr. Fairey was one of the many contributors to the exhibition—along with Richard Prince, Mr. Colen and RETNA—who made pieces but did not make the trip out east.

Mr. Fairey may have had a reason. As the day went on, several of his fellow artists referred to him, with disdain, as “the man who got Obama elected.” The plane tip—once the wind-beaten beacon of this country’s bullet-speed airborne propulsion, but now art—had been branded on its side with the phrase “Amplify Your Voice.” What, again, did Warhol have to do with this?

“Muuuuu-mha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” the kid bellowed into the Fairey sculpture. The echo was eaten up by the metal. We couldn’t hear much of it. The Observer, taken with the idea, ducked into the antimegaphone, the cone that squelched voices instead of amplifying them—as Mr. Fairey had falsely advertised—and emitted an evil laugh that only we could hear.

We had been in the Hamptons, itself an echo chamber of sorts, for not quite an hour.

 

“SWIFT AND STRONG, as vengeance and arrows, come the Americans,” read the subtitles to the 1920s war film screened at the “Nose Job” after-party. A projector had been set up, as well as a puddle jumper pulled from the Bone Yard, with its cockpit open for kids to climb in. It had been decorated by the graffito Futura.

Carlos Rodriguez, a graffiti artist who goes by the name Mare139, stood toward the back holding a bottle of Casa Dragones, an ultra-luxe brand of tequila, as the deejay, designer Timo Weiland, spun “Ask” by the Smiths.

“There was a section of photographs by Henry Chalfant of the old trains, and that contextualized a lot of the artists in the show, because a lot of us come from that generation,” said the artist. “It’s expanding the idea of what graffiti or urban art is.”

But street art needs real streets, and when we zoomed out of East Hampton, having been stuffed into a car driven by a Russian man named Dmitri toward the end of the road—the ocean—there was not a single appearance of anything resembling graffiti.

 

“OH, GIVE IT SOME GAS,” Nathaniel Christian said. It was now Saturday afternoon, and blistering. The Observer was driving a $200,000 Ferrari California around wooded curves, hugging each one and swerving delicately across the tight-waisted Water Mill streets. We had not been behind the wheel in years.

“Just rev it, pump the gas, push it,” Mr. Christian said. The prolific collector of Italian cars was sitting shotgun in the black convertible, charging his iPhone and tightly gripping the car’s door. He wore aviators, kept a patch of stubble and owned more Ferraris than any other man or god needs to. And that Saturday he held his annual Ferrari Rally, a celebration of spun-out tires and breakneck, rowdy speeds that wrangles 120 different versions of the Italian super car to construction don Michael Borrico’s estate. The cars—total worth, $100 million—were dashing and elegant. Outlandish, they were made decent by diversity—beautiful cars in red, yellow, white and black, angular, boxy, buxom, hourglassed, upticked, hardtop, no-top, half-top, sleek, small, enormous.

And of course they were all loud.

With a gear click and a whirl of the steering we shoved our right foot onto the gas pedal and out came a guttural growl—“VA-roooorha-reeeouuuu-thududumhhvvv!”—that shook the sunken leather seat as the California sashayed, as if on ice skates, through the winding Hamptons lanes.

“When I first got this, I thought it was a chick car,” explained Mr. Christian, who, when he’s not vrooming past dogwalkers in red machines, is a successful commercial real estate broker in the city. The automatic transmission—no way we were driving stick—burst into a new gear and summoned another set of horses in the already galloping engine.

“But it’s not,” said Mr. Christian, removing his sunglasses. “It’s not a chick car.”

The exhaust pipe sounded a glissando that swung upward in pitch, the tone peaking with each thrust on the pedal—and that rush! A few more turns and we came back to Mr. Borrico’s estate—we had gone in a circle, a small version of the circuit the Ferrari owners would take later as they rallied through the Hamptons.

As The Observer pulled the Ferrari California into its spot, we overheard another Ferrari owner. “Can you move my car, so it’s not near the front?” he asked. (Were all the drivers male, and white?) “I don’t want the polo balls to come flying at my car.”

There was a polo match later, and when it began we sat at a table with Chelsea Leyland, the deejay, who was having a smoke and wearing sunglasses the size of lily pads. We watched the ponies trot out of the stables kept beyond the pool, where floating, gold letters spelled out MOET MOET MOET. The match began, and the horses, the literal kind, barreled forth with thunderous muscle.

We drank a bottle of Moet Ice, and went to talk to Ed Westwick, Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl. The party had comped him a house and a Ferrari for the weekend, and we had seen him pull its marvelous grill up to our Sag Harbor brunch. He sat a few tables down with a girl who never took her sunglasses off.

“Nah, I’m not doing anything, nah,” Mr. Westwick said to The Observer. “But I love ya!”

His chest spilled out, indecorous tufts of hair unfurling around five undone buttons, as he leaned on the back of his wingman and fellow bloke, Jacob.

The wingman pointed out a girl, all legs, who had just walked away.

“I was gonna say, ‘Yeah, see you later!’ and then this chick, well—you done scared ’em away!” he said to The Observer.

He began taking off his shirt.

“Boom!” he said. “Observe that! Heeeey—bada bing, bada boom.”

Then with a “ta-ta!” they headed toward their Ferrari and sped off.

The sky darkened and in an instant the white house stopped glistening in the hot sun, while the men on its balcony—and their copious stock of wine in ice-stuffed buckets—were quickly draped in a cool, purple night. We hadn’t yet been up to that balcony: it was for the car owners only. So, a girl in a black dress, full of Champagne confidence, snagged our hand, and we ran by a guard through a door and into the redwood interior, past decorative canoes and out to that Ferrari-only deck. The women up here wore riding boots and frilled patterns of another era. We lit the cigarette of the girl in the black dress, and then lit our own.

Another woman, in a white dress, approached The Observer and offered to buy a one of the last cigarettes in our pack. She was offering $10 for a single one.