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Executive Suite: Rick Friedman, the Hamptons

Rick Friedman, president and founder of Hamptons Expo

Rick Friedman, president and founder of Hamptons Expo Group in Southampton, produces art fairs throughout the country. (July 5, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

From Friday through Sunday, about 14,000 people are expected to flood ArtHamptons in Bridgehampton, a 40,000-square-foot art exhibit with a soaring glass lobby erected on a field in five days. It will feature $200 million worth of art from 80 galleries, rare college photos of President Barack Obama and decor replicating Jackson Pollock's art studio.

"My concept was to bring the art to the collectors, so that they did not have to fly to New York City to buy," says Rick Friedman, president and founder of Hamptons Expo Group in Southampton.

Friedman's varied career also has involved producing shows for musicians such as Benny Goodman and Woody Herman and owning ShowBiz Expo and a USA volleyball team.

In the 1990s, working from his basement with $1,000, he founded and grew SIGS Publications into an empire of software conferences, training and books (with articles by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates). Now "retired" at 58, he runs ArtHamptons, ArtAspen, the San Francisco Fine Art Fair, the Houston Fine Art Fair and the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

What artists' work will be exhibited?

Eric Fischl, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Milton Avery, Helen Frankenthaler, George Condo, Ed Moses, Chuck Close . . . some big-name art is going to be sold.

How did you choose the locations for your shows?

Currently, 3,000 artists live on the East End, and there's a lot of patronage and a lot of buying. [Hamptonites] have big homes and, you know, big walls, and they can always have another piece of beautiful art. We looked at cities that have affluent, cultured clientele that would appreciate and buy art . . . People don't realize that Houston is becoming the third-largest city in America; it has 100 museums and people who make their money in oil and energy and show their wealth through buying art.

What is your advice to new artists?

Get with a gallery -- an artist by himself has a difficult time -- and find the right gallery that really wants to invest in them and spend the time with them. Some galleries have told me it's taken them 10 years of managing an artist to get the prices up to a high level.

What's your biggest headache?

When you create a marketplace you always have to worry if there's going to be commerce . . . you can never predict what's going to sell.

What's your best bargain story?

I got a good price on a Jackson Pollock. I think he's exploded in price in the past four or five years. I also have a nice Ellsworth Kelly. It's like they're my kids: You love them all, and they're all smart and good-looking.



NAME: Rick Friedman, president/ founder of Hamptons Expo Group in Southampton

WHAT THEY DO: Produce five international fine art fairs; each attracts 10,000-14,000 art lovers, showcases $200 million in art and generates
$3 million-$8 million in sales.

EMPLOYEES: 6 full time, 5 part time

ROLES THEY PLAY: Exhibit sales, audience development, advertising, operations, finance

REVENUE: $3 million-$3.5 million

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