Fashion designer Lisa Perry was browsing Instagram when she spotted photographs of a vanishing marvel of modernist architecture in the woods of East Hampton. The Long Island getaway – a glass and steel home built by mid-century architect Paul Lester Wiener – needed a champion.
Commissioned by legendary art collectors Ethel and Robert Scull in 1962, the house’s crisp details reminded Perry of his own childhood home in suburban Chicago. And despite her retro-inspired collections, the designer wasn’t interested in strictly recreating the past. When Perry received the keys to the Hamptons’ $4 million hideaway in January 2021, she decided to turn it into a new art gallery.
Onna House, at 123 Georgica Road, will open this spring as a space dedicated to the work of women artists and designers. (Word we have notpronounced clean-ah, is an homage to the Japanese word for woman.) Perry hired architect Christine Harper to renovate the house, transforming its four-bedroom layout into a series of galleries and entertaining spaces. The transformation of the Sculls’ former home comes as other mid-century buildings of architectural significance are being destroyed on Long Island. A house designed by Marcel Breuer in 1945 was demolished by its owners in January despite efforts by conservators to save the structure.
“I wanted to restore the house and stay true to the architect’s vision,” Perry told Artnet News. “One of our main goals is to foster visibility and help artists sell their work, highlighting those who have been under-recognized and who we believe deserve to be known and celebrated.”
Although not a trained art dealer, Perry, 64, has spent the past 35 years amassing a significant private collection of pop and minimal art alongside her husband, hedge fund manager Richard Perry . The collection includes big names like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Ellsworth Kelly; however, the fashion designer says one of his first purchases was a work by naturalist illustrator Walton Ford. Since then, the collection has grown to include artists like Jennifer Bartlett, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger.
Open by appointment only, the gallery currently hosts a mix of works by local and international artists from Perry’s collection, including Kelly Behun, Nodoka Yamaura, Nina Cho and Toni Ross, who are not for sale. East Hampton antiques dealer Russell Steele helped guide Perry’s selections, encouraging him to include local artists alongside those the fashion designer supported in Japan.
When Onna House opens to the public on May 28, it will present “Listening to the Thread,” an exhibition and sale of vibrant geometric fiber works by Japanese textile artist Mitsuko Asakura, which compares the use of color in weaving to that of pointillism. in art. The space will also include designer Ligia Dias’ collection of paper dresses, jewelry and mirrors. Perry said she would hold three exhibitions throughout the summer; fall and winter plans are being finalized.
Looking to the future, the newly created gallerist hopes to create non-traditional residences for creators looking for a short-term getaway.
“The artists said, ‘We’d like to go to Onna House for the day, work with another artist and come home in the evening,'” Perry explained. “I want it to be a collaborative space.”
The shape of the future residences is still being determined, but Perry made sure to expand the kitchen area of the Modernist home to accommodate the culinary masters as well. “I might bring in a Japanese chef to spend time as a resident because sushi is art,” she said. “I’m mesmerized watching her do her thing.”
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