By Annette Hinkle
The Hamptons International Film Festival makes its 20th appearance next weekend, and while the primary focus will be on the moving image in the form of 140 plus films from around the globe, there’s another aspect of the festival that involves a different sort of visual art.
Each year, HIFF produces an original poster as a promotional piece to advertise the festival. The centerpiece of these posters is an original piece of artwork, while some images are abstract and others, decidedly cinematic in theme, the artists and photographers selected are always top names and many of them have an East End connection. Which means the posters themselves end up becoming a piece of collectible art.
This weekend, the Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehampton opens “Celebrating 20 years of the Hamptons International Film Festival: Artist Poster Retrospective” an exhibit featuring each of the posters created for the HIFF over the course of the last two decades. The list of participating artists reads like a whose who of contemporary art — there’s Eric Fischl (1993, 2002, 2010), April Gornik (1995, 2005), Donald Sultan (1996), Julian Schnabel (2001), Cindy Sherman (2006) and Bruce Weber (2011) to name a few.
“Every poster has a story,” says Gianna Chachere, festival producer who notes that though the purpose of the posters is to promote film, the artists are given complete freedom in deciding what to do with the space.
“It’s really been up to the artist,” adds Chachere. “I came on board in ’06 – the first artist was Cindy Sherman. She had provided a number of images for our use. We had a poster image and an image on the front of our catalog. That was coupe for us. The two photos we acquired of Sherman were film motifs. One was evocative of ‘On the Waterfront,’ and in another she was a starlet in the 50s.”
In the case of Sherman, who’s known for photographic self-portraits in which she assumes a different identity, Chachere notes that the cinematic theme is a natural.
“When you’re working with someone who has that connection, there’s already a link,” says Chachere. “You wouldn’t think of film necessarily connected to the work of April Gornik or Eric Fichl. They’re not film oriented per se.”
Yet, their images also work in the context of the film poster, though perhaps by making a statement that is less literal and more introspective.
“If I look at some of the posters in our office, sometimes the artist has chosen something film related or a film focus. But others are completely outside of that,” says Chachere. “Or they address something that speaks more to their strengths of what kind of artist they are. Collectively, they’re stunning to see in a group because they’re so different — different styles, different colors.”
“Julian Schnabel actually painted ‘Hamptons Film Festival’ on a burlap sack,” she adds. “The sack was auctioned as a giveback to the festival.”
This year’s poster features a colorful and semi-abstract painting by British artist Cecily Brown. The artist was born in London in 1969, where she studied at the Slade School, and she currently lives and works in New York and is represented by the Gagosian Gallery.
“Her studio is in New York and she’s actually very young,” says Chachere. “We haven’t had that many female artists — fewer than I would like. I think that her paintings are innocent and sophisticated at the same time and they’re a bit abstract. They make you focus on what’s missing rather than what’s present.”
When asked how artists are selected, Chachere explains the task falls each year to Michael Lynne, a member of the HIFF board and owner of Bedell Cellars vineyard and winery on the North Fork. Lynne also knows a thing or two about art and film — not only is he on the board of the Museum of Modern Art, but he’s also co-chairman and co-chief executive of New Line Cinema.
“It’s Michael Lynne’s job – he knows who’s out here and has a connection out here,” says Chachere, who adds that the posters are a nice way to remember the festival long after the awards have been handed out.
“It’s a very nice memento and a souvenir of that year,” says Chachere. “Given that every poster is wildly different and evokes different emotion and aesthetics, its nice, especially for someone like me who has been with the festival so long. It reminds me of that year. I think that’s a nice thing.”
The posters are also something for festival goers to take home with them and they are offered for sale throughout the run of the festival. Unsigned posters go for $20 and signed versions are $74.
“We always have a special poster signing,” says Chachere. “I think it’s a nice way to feature work from a different aesthetic.”
And there’s a good chance the posters will become collectibles. Chachere notes that though the HIFF has copies of all the posters from the festival’s history (a complete set of signed posters will be sold by Peter Marcelle Gallery for $4,000) she admits they don’t have as many in-house as they would like — especially from the earlier years. Which may ultimately speak to the popularity of the HIFF poster, not only as a marketing tool, but as a valued piece of art.
“We do have a logo and a brand, but it’s pretty static,” says Chachere. “Working with the artists is a nice way to bring in a different view point and aesthetic that’s a celebration of art in the film world — on a local and international level.”
“Even if it’s not directly related to film, these images are so striking on their own, they tell their own story.”
“Celebrating 20 years of the Hamptons International Film Festival: Artist Poster Retrospective” opens with a reception on Saturday, September 29, 5 to 7 p.m. at Peter Marcelle Gallery, 2411 Main Street, Bridgehampton. The show runs through October 8. For details, call the gallery at (631) 613-6170. The 20th Hamptons International Film Festival runs October 4 to 8 at venues in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Southampton, Montauk and Westhampton Beach. Visit hamptonsfilmfest.org for full schedule and ticket information.