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RJD Gallery Reopens In Bridgehampton After Sag Harbor Fire Destroys $1.4 Million In Art

RJD Gallery Reopens In Bridgehampton After Sag Harbor Fire Destroys $1.4 Million In Art

Three months after his collection of artwork in Sag Harbor was reduced to ashes in the major pre-Christmas fire on Main Street, Richard J. Demato has reopened his RJD Gallery at 2385 Main Street in Bridgehampton.

The gallery’s original home at 90 Main Street in Sag Harbor, next to the Sag Harbor Cinema, was torn down after the building sustained significant damage in a massive fire in the village on December 16 that damaged five buildings and several businesses on Main Street, including SagTown Coffee, a Collette Luxury Consignment store, Compass and Brown Harris Stevens real estate offices, and a Henry Lehr store.

Mr. Demato said he lost 83 paintings worth a collective $1.4 million, and that the artists whose works were on display in the Sag Harbor gallery began receiving compensation from insurance companies this past week.

The new location, next to the Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen, is three times the size of the Sag Harbor gallery—three rooms combined into one, with a large first floor and a small additional gallery on the second floor. As a result, he noted that he’s able to have sculptures on display, with more room for visitors to walk around and enjoy the aesthetic.

While the fire in Sag Harbor was a shock, Mr. Demato said, it was providential that he’d had his eyes on the Bridgehampton spot just a week before the fire, as his landlord had said just days earlier that he wanted to raise the rent.

“Ironically, I was looking that Thursday, the day before,” he said at the new space on Saturday, when it opened. “After I got the alarm on Friday morning and went down to see the problem, I went to GeekHampton to buy new computers, and I called up the Realtor for this space, made a deal, and had a lease to my attorney by Friday night. We resolved it Monday morning, and on January 2 we started demolition.”

Mr. Demato said that he started moving everything into the new building two weeks ago and is happy with the design of the space. Since the Bridgehampton location needed renovations regardless, he said, his new landlord allowed him to install new walls, floors and LED lights. Cream-colored walls and gray flooring complement the artwork, making it stand out.

“The other space had distracting orange wood floors that were very dated and scratched up,” Mr. Demato said. “This is much more clean and contemporary. The leather chairs and the glass tables allow for more spaciousness and don’t take away from the art.”

Teresa Elliott, Margaret Bowland, Phillip Thomas and Jules Arthur are among the artists the gallery represents. Mr. Demato described the paintings he displays as primarily figurative, what some might call American Magic Realism. “It’s realistic, figurative work with a hint or a suggestion of a story that enables the viewer to see what they want to see and every viewer sees something different,” he said.

When asked if he would return the gallery to Sag Harbor or simply open a second location there, he made no promises. “I would guess that nothing would be built and opened there for at least three to four years, because right now none of them have resolved their insurance issues, which could take another four to six months,” Mr. Demato said. “Then the guy who owns the theater would have to decide if he’s going to rebuild or sell the land, and then someone else would rebuild.

“We wanted to be in Sag Harbor, but there was nothing available for us. There was one space, but it was smaller than what I had, and another space that might’ve worked, size-wise, but the landlord wouldn’t give me a lease.”

Mr. Demato said he is happy to be near popular businesses such as the Candy Kitchen and Bobby Van’s, not to mention other galleries such as Mark Borghi Fine Art and Kathryn Markel Fine Arts. He said he loves doing what he does for the people he meets, whether they’re in front of canvas painting taking it in or behind a canvas carrying it home.

“I’m just very grateful—we’re all very grateful to be back in business,” he said, referring to both his artists and his customers. “We love what we do, the artists are highly sensitive, creative people. The people who buy our art are very interesting also. We do things that are unusual and contemporary, so the people that purchase are a little bit out of the mainstream, and they’re very interesting and creative. And they become your friends, and you have a lot in common.”

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