Art and Auction in East Hampton

An evening to benefit Guild Hall; a soiree at the Gardner Estate in honor of Martha Stewart.

lapg9ss Art and Auction in East Hampton

Baldwin and Schumer.

The swans in Town Pond paddled on serenely, unfazed by the crowds filing up James Lane toward Guild Hall. The birds, evidently, are accustomed to such revelry. The event, last Saturday, was a celebration of Richard Prince’s exhibition “Covering Pollock,” currently on display at the Hall’s gallery. The work, Mr. Prince’s latest, consists of black-and-white photographs of Jackson Pollock obscured by images of models, ’80s punk stars and various forms of old-school erotica. Inside, groups of curious viewers—some of them peering over their spectacles at the prints—made polite banter about the graphic images.

Simon de Pury, the famous auctioneer enlisted to moderate the live art sale, had flown in from Monaco for the occasion. He effused about Mr. Prince’s latest show. “It’s great to see him constantly reinventing himself” Mr. de Pury said of the artist. “He is an outstanding master. I’ve loved his work for many years. He’s getting better and better.”

Around 7 o’clock, the party caravanned up Main Street, a procession of flowing gowns and white linen pants. A stalwart member of the East Hampton police force halted traffic as guests paraded across Main Street, walking unhurriedly past stopped cars and onto the grounds of the famed Gardiner Estate.

Elizabeth Sobieski, Kim Heirston Evans, Stacey and Matthew Bronfman, former MoMA director Richard Oldenburg and his wife Mary Ellen, and a slew of Macklowes (Harry, William and a racily dressed Julie) all enjoyed the cocktail hour. “Let me introduce you to the young wife,” Patricia Durkan announced to a gaggle of other guests. “It’s just like being on my brother’s boat,” another said to her friend.

Alec Baldwin, the evening’s emcee, staked out a chair on the periphery and generally kept to himself.

Mini seemed to be the order of the evening: mini-margaritas served in diminutive Patron flasks, mini-rum and Cokes in tiny glass Coke bottles and mini-white wines in microscopic chalices. (Naturally, two full bars serving full-size drinks were available to those searching for a more generous pour.)

The night’s honoree, Martha Stewart, gracefully made her way around the party, trailed by a roving receiving line of well-wishers introducing themselves and reminding her of their acquaintance. The homemaking queen told The Observer her favorite pastime in East Hampton was walking her dogs on the beach every morning at 6:30. Frightfully early, yes, but, as we all know, dogs are not allowed on East Hampton’s beaches after nine o’clock.

As Ms. Stewart walked along the tree-lined path leading from the main house to the back lawn, where dinner was to be served, she was exhorted by an admirer. “The oldest tree in America is on this property in the back,” a member of the group exclaimed with obvious excitement. “I’ll show it to you.” “We’re going to see the oldest tree in America,” Ms. Stewart then informed The Observer as we cut through the thicket. Once in the arboreal section of the garden, the fearless leader was suddenly confused. “This is the tree. Or did they take it down?” Having perhaps seen the oldest tree in America, the group of sojourners disbanded as Ms. Stewart walked back to the path to the tented dinner area.

Mr. Baldwin, a longtime supporter of Guild Hall, took to the mic and announced the lineup. “You can feel the pulse, the buzz, the heat of this exciting teenage crowd we have here,” Mr. Baldwin said, generating a collective guffaw from the 60-something audience. “If you really want to show your appreciation for me and anything I may have done for Guild Hall, just get the hell out of my way when the Clifford Ross piece comes around. I want that Clifford Ross piece, and I’m going to get it,” Mr. Baldwin said.

True to his word, Mr. Baldwin paid $70,000 for the photograph titled Hurricane, LI, a black-and-white image of the roiling surf of Long Island. For his part, Goldman Sachs exec Donald Mullen paid $100,000 for a Barbara Kruger piece depicting a blindfolded man with the words “He entered shop after shop, priced nothing, spoke no word, and looked at all the objects with wild and vacant stare” emblazoned on the blindfold (a quote from the harrowing Edgar Allen Poe story “The Man of the Crowd”). We thought we spotted George Hamilton in the audience, but it turned out to be a warmly bronzed Larry Gagosian. Mr. Gagosian put in a few bids, driving up those art prices as he is wont to do, but didn’t end up taking anything home.

After the auction, Keith Richards’s progeny Alexandra Richards, who was D.J.’ing, had the crowd in a youthful way, and as we took our leave Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” came over the speakers, and a sea of fists pumped into the night.

—eknutsen@observer.com