DiDonna Galleries is known for whipping up immaculately curated, deeply sourced secondary market shows that shed light on under-appreciated slices of art history. Last year a show focused on surrealists in Mexico, and it was a museum-caliber presentation of a series of works rarely seen in the US. The painstaking process of organizing the show meant pinpointing and then reeling in a constellation of loans, but that intellectual weightlifting paid off when a steady stream of visitors came by the Upper East Side space.
Not so much the most recent DiDonna show, which had the bad luck of opening in March.
“We’ve had an exhibition hung since March that four people have seen,” DiDonna sighed. “From my point of view, given the type of exhibitions that we put on, I’m not programming anything in the near future.”
Instead of moping about losing an audience in New York, DiDonna teamed up with his wife, Christina, to open a Hamptons project space called Sélavy (named for Duchamp’s female alter ego Rrose Sélavy). Here there would be no ambitious, encyclopedic, hyper-specific shows. The duo capitalized instead on the forced domesticity of stay-at-home orders and now offer a series of design objects—Lalanne chairs, a chess set designed by Max Ernst—which can be bought by Hamptons locals and quickly slotted into their houses.
Plus, Di Donna has also been slinging higher-priced work privately to collectors in the area, having them come in to private viewing rooms one at a time, mask on, to see works that had been consigned to the gallery.