It was a brilliant day for an opening. Under a near cloudless autumn sky, the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill threw open its doors Saturday for the first time to a mostly oohing-and-aahing public.
"We're just knocked out," said Claire Watson of Water Mill, standing near "Tambourinefrappe," artist John Chamberlain's 2010 chrome-plated sculpture that resembles a smashed car. "I was never aware of the extent of their collection," she added, referring to the Parrish's permanent collection of nearly 2,700 works that languished in storage in the old Jobs Lane space in Southampton Village. "It's a world-class museum."
Zach and Will Taschler, 7 and 3, were not quite as impressed. Zach led his father, Jeff, quickly through the recent-acquisitions gallery, while Will squirmed in his mother Dina's arms. "We try to get them interested in something cultural," Jeff Taschler said. "The boys thought it was a children's museum."
"The trick," Dina Taschler said, "is to buy postcards in the gift shop and go on a scavenger hunt for the art. We forgot this time." The family lives in Water Mill and Manhattan.
The gift shop was open, but the café remained closed until late afternoon.
That was one of the few glitches at an opening made challenging by superstorm Sandy and last week's nor'easter that resulted in days of lost power.
The $26.2-million museum has 12,200 square feet of exhibition space in seven galleries. Lit by dozens of skylights, Parrish was ready for its debut, featuring about 120 works from the permanent collection and 60 in the temporary exhibit "Malcolm Morley: Painting, Paper, Process," a retrospective of art by the Bellport painter-sculptor. Among the opening-day events was "Waterfalls," a piece performed by the Chelsea Quintet and inspired by four Charles Burchfield paintings. One of the paintings, "Glory of Spring" is on display at the Parrish.
"The only time I've seen it before today was [on loan] at the Whitney [museum]," said composer Nell Shaw Cohen, who grew up in Sag Harbor. "Seeing the actual work and hearing the music I wrote for it is the ideal context for me."
By early afternoon, a line had formed at the "Free Advice" sign, where performance artist Sur answered all kinds of questions. "Someone asked me if she should pursue her art or her writing," he said. "I just listened and tried to reflect what she already knows."
Museum director Terrie Sultan didn't need advice Saturday. "I'm euphoric," she said of opening day, which drew 800 to 1,000 visitors. "It's exactly what I wanted, seeing people walk in the galleries, looking around. I think we're poised to make a real difference in cultural engagement."
Free admission to the museum continues until Monday.