The Windmill Art Gallery Southampton (WAGS), a recent yet already integral part of the Hamptons’ art scene, incorporates both the natural beauty of the East End and a passion for human creativity. Florent Firmin, an inspired advocate for art’s omnipresence in everyday life, speaks with Hamptons Social about his journey from a stunning public exhibition of French artist Idriss B.’s works on Park Avenue to founding a gallery in the Hamptons that embodies his belief that “art is the birth of life.” This summer, Firmin’s curatorial eye and Idriss B.’s geometric animal sculptures are set to captivate audiences in the Hamptons.

Could you tell me about what inspired you to open a gallery in the Hamptons?

After the successful public exhibition of Idriss B., it only made sense to continue the journey, which was to open an actual art gallery in a nature dominant environment, where Idriss B. art pieces would fit in with the surroundings. So, the Hamptons was the ultimate choice close to New York City — and Watermill was the perfect location, with the gallery located just two miles from Southampton Village. Commuters used to only drive by but now, they slow down, stop, and come look at Idriss B. art pieces at the Mill Center Plaza. I believe that art belongs where life happens. Art is the birth of life.

How did you first cross paths with Idriss B.?

Being part of the Murray Hill community in New York, I was introduced to Idriss B. when the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association — through the Patrons of Park Avenue organization — arranged their fabulous pieces to be exhibited on Park Avenue. We connected, and he immediately asked me to represent him here in the US. We clicked, and I understood his vision.

What do you love most about his work? Do you have a favorite piece?

I love them all. They definitely speak to me. That’s how I believe art should be chosen when it speaks to your inner self or your soul. Polygonal art forms could be edgy. But his artworks have a lot of depth. Plus, I love animals even though I haven’t been in a zoo for ages. But the Discovery Channel or the National Geography have always been my favorite channels. Observing animals has always helped humans go through life, and understanding them still helps navigate life despite the hyperconnected world we are all bound to live in.

What are some other artists’ work that will be on display at your gallery this summer?

When I opened the gallery, the driving force was the polygonal sculptures of Idriss B. It only was right to bring in more artists with the same pop tendencies to fill all the walls. I curated the gallery with a mixture of NYC-based talented and very driven young artists such as Eric Klein “Enhance,” J.O. Jerusalem, LV<^ (Goli), Renelio Marin, Alyssa Grace, Gabriela Gil, Hypnotic, Zhanna Mezhenskay, Josip Kostovic, Gabe Aiello, Sandy Cohen, and Leidy Mazo from Miami. To maintain the balance, a few more established and mature artists were chosen such as shoe designer Jennifer Plutzer, photographer Roger Sichel, award-winning photographer Luciana Pampalone and Ron Burkhardt.

How are you collaborating with artists local to the East End community this summer?

The local community will also get a great share of curated art experiences at the gallery. Local wineries and oysters vendors are also included. I am planning several curated experiences that should leave everyone satisfied. Local artists who are scheduled to have showings at the gallery this summer include Leila Pinto, Bonnie Zindel, Joyce Raimondo, Roger Sichel, and Fabiana Yvonne Lugli. 

Can you tell us about your partnership with the Capri Hotel in the Hamptons?

With a partnership with Capri Hotel this summer, Windmill Art Gallery Southampton is bringing art pieces to potential clients and vacationers from the time they arrive at the hotel parking lot to their entrance in the lobby and their walk through the hotel common area.

Is there a theme to your summer exhibitions?

This summer’s shows are geared toward a more educational and cultural experience of art across continents with artworks that transcend photography, fashion, and sculptures through amazing Japanese kimonos and, later in the season, WAGS is debuting a series of tribal masks from different nations. The goal is to narrate cultural stories through art.

How important is it for you to show other cultures in the gallery?

Being part of an international community, I find myself constantly embracing people from different parts of the world, and I believe that art expands more beyond the traditional artist’s self-expression of energy and colors. There are intercontinental cultural experiences that can be translated through art.

For instance, Mohamed Yakub is a Kenyan artist whose work covers photographic abstract art. He has touched on the Asian community with the conceptualization of the Kimono.

His series of kimonos, which feature photographs and images taken during the Covid pandemic, speaks to the ability of the kimono to record historical moments while holding on to its status as a unique piece of clothing. Very few garments have remained true to their origins as the kimono has. 

The kimonos, in this context, serve as documents of our collective experience during the Covid pandemic. They speak of our fear of the unknown but also of a time of contemplation. We see the magnificence of the Hudson River, the unique New York outdoor dining sheds, ancient artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum, the simple beauty of orange and cranberry juices mixing together. All these images take on an added significance given the uncertainty of that time. The kimono in its unique and magical way serves to document that period, showing us the beauty that surrounds us, as well as, everyday scenes that we took for granted. The kimono is truly a universal messenger sent to us from centuries past to reflect on our current time.

[Photos courtesy of Windmill Art Gallery]

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