TWO GERMAN COLLECTORS UPROOT THEIR FAMILY AND FOLLOW THEIR PASSION TO SOUTHAMPTON TO OPEN A GALLERY
Memorial Day weekend found Southampton's Keszler Gallery packed with art lovers. A show by the highly controversial British street artist known simply as Banksy—touted in a New Yorker article as the "quickest growing artist...of all time" was enough to attract over 350 people to the opening. The pseudonymous artist's first U.S. show was also quite a coup for owner Stephan Keszler who opened the gallery just a year ago with what he admits was virtually no experience in the art business.
"Life is a risk and I'm an entrepreneurial guy who wanted to do a large contemporary art space that was different from the more typically formal Hampton gallery," says Stephan whose previous ventures have included fashion—he was responsible for introducing Polo Ralph Lauren to his native Germany-and real estate. "I've been collecting art for 25 years and I wanted to use my love for art in a professional way."
Early exhibits at the Main Street locale centered on photography, including photographs by Hampton resident and fellow German Wolfgang Ludes, along with ongoing exhibitions of iconic images by such notables as John Jonas Gruen, Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts and Sheila Metzner. The ensuing months, however, will reveal a shift to large works on canvas; in August, the entire gallery will be painted black to provide a dramatic backdrop for the diamond dust screen prints of photographer/painter Russell Young. "There is no model for what we are doing," says Keszler. "We choose art that we like and that we would enjoy having in our house."
The domicile for the Keszlers is a rambling 8,500 square-foot grand cottage he shares with his wife and fellow art collector, Michaela, their three children, Lulu, Nicki, Paulina and their two dogs. Set amidst two-and-a-half meticulously groomed acres with a pool and tennis court, the hundred-year-old, eight-bedroom house was the realization of a dream that began more than two decades ago, when Stephan and Michaela first discovered the Hamptons during an anniversary trip to New York.