“It started about seven years ago as the brainchild of one of the of the Guild Hall board members,” said Nina Gillman, a Guild Hall Garden Committee member, about the summer the Garden as Art tour in the Hamptons. “It was first launched with an art exhibit at the museum, which focused on all the paintings and artwork done by artists out in the area on gardens.” Ms. Gillman fired off a list of venerable East End artists that had been featured in the years since including Donald Sultan, April Gornik, Eric Fischl, Mary Heilmann and Bryan Hunt.
Over the years the garden series has become quite popular, reported Ms. Gillman. Thanks, in part, to Hamptons art bigwig Ruth Appelhof, who has championed the tour. These lush, East End gardens are prideful displays that highlight the diverse collaborations between esteemed architects, landscape and visual artists and wealthy homeowners.
For Guild Hall, it’s not always easy to find willing residents; they often guard their privacy and perhaps lavish lifestyles with soaring walls, fences and hedges. “It’s a challenge to open up these private homes,” admitted Ms. Gillman. “A number of people don’t want that exposure, but we do find very generous people who want to share their gardens.”
Still, imagine the level of Victoria Grayson-like envy one could incite if their residence was selected by the Guild’s finicky committee. “We see what we can find and choose the best,” said Ms. Gillman gingerly, careful not to disclose too much insider knowledge about the selection process. “We’re very eclectic.”
Many skeptical green thumbs may scratch their heads as to why on earth Guild Hall, a reputable bastion of Hamptonite culture, would host a garden tour out of primetime season—early summer.
“A garden in June is a like a teenager in a prom dress,” Ms. Gillman retorted to that outlook, quoting some notable to the best of her ability. Touché. The reality of the timing is mostly happenstance. “[There is] a hugely busy calendar,” explained Ms. Gillman. “June, which is the usual time for garden tours, is so crowded and we don’t want to interfere.” She did admit that the late August timing turns out to be both a blessing and a curse. “We have thought about changing it,” Ms. Gillman said. “We are brushing up against hurricane season.”
On the positive, there aren’t other tours and—let’s face it—Guild Hall has plenty of sway.
“People are hungry [for a] last look at natural spaces,” Ms. Gillman told The Observer. “It’s a good time for the social calendar and the Guild Hall calendar.”
The 2012 Garden as Art tour will once again kick things off with a pair of VIP events. On Friday, August 24 from 6-8 p.m., the Guild will host a patron and benefactor cocktail party at a Devon Colony estate. On August 25, the day of the tour, there will be a pricey benefactor luncheon at two neighboring East Hampton estates. In regards to whose palatial residences Guild Hall guests would be dining at, Ms. Gillman remained mum. She did however divulge that there would be a high-brown rendition of musical chairs at the luncheon: “Guests will have lunch at one house and then switch places for a [seated] dessert at the other.”
If you’re lucky enough to score a seat at the Guild Hall patron festivities beside the likes of Paul Goldberger and Martha Stewart (or signup in advance for the tour), expect something a bit unique: “The gardens are very unusual this year—quite different,” said Ms. Gillman. She described some as large estates, while others are small gardens that, despite their size, hold their own. “Small gems and things to marvel at,” she concluded in a hushed tone.
This year’s roster for the Garden as Art Tour is: Lenore and Adam Sender (Sag Harbor), Lisa and Richard Perry (North Haven), Jenny and Trey Laird (Bridgehampton Village), Jody and Larry Carlson (Bridgehampton), Michael MacElhenny and David Wine (East Hampton Village).