Peter Marino’s “Frick by the Sea”

Peter Marino’s “Frick by the Sea”

Architect Peter Marino has found the perfect home for his collection in a Queen Anne revival house
Architect Peter Marino has found the perfect home for his collection in a Queen Anne revival house

I t is a year since internationally acclaimed architect and collector Peter Marino opened his eponymous art foundation to the public. The foundation inhabits a historic building: the 19th-century Queen Anne Revival Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton, New York, designed by RH Robertson and built in 1895. When the library moved elsewhere, the Parrish Art Museum used the idiosyncratic building as an annexe for a while, before it slid down the social scale to host a linen store. In 2018 Marino rescued it and subsequently transformed it. He has constructed a flamboyant Gesamtkunstwerk, restoring the exterior and redesigning the interior, furnishing new spaces with curtains, Venetian stucco, luxurious parquet flooring and filling it with his own art works.

A series of works by Jean Pagliuso, 2005–09. Photo: Jason Schmidt

Acquired over 40 years, this highly personal private collection ranges from Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities to Baroque bronzes, paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat and sculpture by Les Lalanne, by way of Delacroix, 19th-century faience and the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. Changing every season, with this year’s focused exhibitions of work by Vik Muniz (until 9 July), Anselm Kiefer (until October), Melvin Edwards (until October), Sanford Biggers (16 July–13 August) and Jean-Michael Othoniel & Johan Creten (20 August to October), locals and international visitors alike are invited to enjoy the different displays, talks and book signings. As Marino has remarked, mischievously, “I see it as a house museum. A Frick by the sea, if I may say so.”

What did the building offer him? “It’s all about adaptive reuse, as part of the growing green movement,” Marino answers. “It is important that buildings that were well-designed and well-built are kept in use,” he says. “This former Lady had fallen on bad times. Everybody in the town cast their eyes down as they passed her. Who else would buy this Queen Anne revival house from the 1890s?”

19th-century faience by Théodore Deck stands on pedestals and a table by Carlo Bugatti from circa 1900. Photo: Jason Schmidt

The project was by no means plain sailing. No sooner had Marino taken out all the windows and demolished the roof, than Covid hit. “Nightmare! The contractors could not work.” Now it is finished, what pleases him most is the foundation’s defiance of contemporary art foundation norms. “I think that architects are going down the wrong path – creating modernist boxes that look like commercial galleries, places where you sell art, rather than live,” he says. “I find them soulless and without regard for the art. I am not one of those who thinks the best way to display a painting is on a white wall.”

Most pleasing for Marino has been the reaction of industry professionals, curators from major galleries and museums, to his collections: “It has of course been a massive validation.”

The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Max Hollein, was reportedly overheard in conversation with a woman, who excitedly declared: “Well, this is certainly the high point of culture on East Long Island!” To which he replied, “Madame, this is a high point in culture worldwide.”

Cover image: Peter Marino. Photo: Jason Schmidt

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