The new Parrish Art Museum at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill, New York, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. Photograph by Matthu Placek. ©Matthu Placek.

NEW YORK - The new Parrish Art Museum building opened in Water Mill, New York last month, and the Herzog & de Meuron design shows what sophisticated starchitecture is all about: It’s a long, low structure, which fits the flat Hamptons context to a T, but the rough concrete exterior and the smart deployment of natural light are thoroughly modern.

While the 35,000 square foot museum – which triples the Parrish’s exhibition space compared to the old Jobs Lane building in – is a big deal, we shouldn't forget that it's the art inside that matters most. The project allows the curators to show a lot more work, and they have been acquiring new pieces with that in mind. Some of them have a local flavor, like the wonderful The Cross is in the Center, Tintoretto, 1988-89, by Dorothea Rockburne, the now NYC-based artist who was a part-time East Ender for years. Rockburne took particular inspiration from stargazing in the area’s clear night skies, and the Parrish gave her a long overdue retrospective last year.

Parrish Art Museum director Terrie Sultan, artist Eric Fischl, Christopher French and artist April Gornik at the opening of the new Parrish Art Museum. Courtesy of the Parrish Art Museum.

Pace Gallery honcho Arne Glimcher and his wife, Milly, gave the Parrish a fantastic untitled Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) sculpture from the late 1970s, one of her well-known, cabinet-like black abstractions in wood. Glimcher was her longtime dealer, and Nevelson spent a lot of time on the East End.

Last year, Glimcher told me a very funny Hamptons-based story about the time he and Nevelson drove out to Willem de Kooning’s studio in the Springs. They got in a horrible car accident on the way, totaling their vehicle, but as they were uninjured, Nevelson was undeterred from their mission.

Malcolm Morley, whose exhibition Painting, Paper, Process is on view at the Parrish Art Museum through January 13.

“Where are my earrings?” was her only question right after impact, and once they had called a car service and were back on the road to the Dutch master’s studio, she commented, “You never miss an appointment.” When they arrived and told the story, De Kooning, for his part, just looked at them and said: “You guys are absolutely crazy.”

That tale gets at the eccentricity and determination behind so much great art, from de Kooning’s canvases to Nevelson’s constructions – and even the designs of Herzog & de Meuron.