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Wednesday, 06 July 2011 05:02

Music mogul Tommy Mottola opens major art gallery in the Hamptons with more galleries to follow

A work by Mel Bochner at Tommy Mottola's new art gallery A work by Mel Bochner at Tommy Mottola's new art gallery Getty Images

With years of music experience under his belt, Tommy Mottola, the former head of Sony Music Entertainment and a mentor to such talent as Carly Simon, Mariah Carey (his second wife) and Jennifer Lopez, has ventured into new terrain.

This weekend he opened an art gallery on Main Street in a space that formerly housed an Hermès boutique. Gallery Valentine, named after a supposedly prestigious Manhattan gallery, is a joint venture with Mr. Mottola's friend, Ryan Ross, who has run Arcature Fine Art on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach for a decade or so.

At its opening Saturday, Valentine had a slightly unfocused cross section of new work and blue-chip art on its walls, priced $5,500 to $3.5 million. Several paintings belonged to Mr. Mottola, including a Warhol he isn't sure he's ready to sell, given to him by the artist. There were pieces by de Kooning, Alex Katz, Leger, Rauschenberg and Sam Francis as well as a few prominently hung paintings by Mel Bochner. One read "Blah, blah, blah," another read "Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch." These are two things that people like to say and/or do in the Hamptons, but, in a conversation just before the opening Saturday, Mr. Mottola wasn't complaining.

This is an exciting time. Mr. Mottola's wife, the Latin pop star Thalia, gave birth to a son last weekend, and he was eagerly showing off an Anne Geddes-like photo on his iPhone of 7-day-old Matthew wrapped in a blue bow. "I saw the picture and I said to her, 'What are you doing to my son?'" Mr. Mottola laughed.

Mr. Mottola said that the idea for the gallery came together in late spring when he and Mr. Ross were "hanging out in Palm Beach."

"There's never been a serious gallery out here in the Hamptons," said Mr. Mottola, who explained that in the past several years he's grown "more serious about art collecting." "It's funny, because all the dealers live out here. I know all of them and I'm a people person. I thought, with my knowledge and experience, I'd like to try my hand at it."

The pair hope the gallery will be a year-round institution with branches in Miami and Manhattan, though initially, when Mr. Mottola found the location, he signed a six-month lease. "I won't say it was a whim, but I think it's a seed for something great." The gallery director is Alexandra Fairweather, the stepdaughter of artist John Chamberlain, a friend of Mr. Mottola's. Several pieces by Mr. Chamberlain are for sale at Valentine.

Mr. Mottola said his background in music will help him in the new arena. "The music business, as far as the sale of physical music, is at the end," he said. "People's appetite for music, however, is probably more insatiable than ever before, but they just don't want to pay for it." The art business, "will never be at the end. That's the beauty of this," he continued, gesturing to the walls. "You can't download this." He said that the skills he learned as a mentor can only help.

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