The critically acclaimed Herzog & de Meuron-designed building opened to the public in November 2012. Sited on fourteen acres of meadow in Water Mill, New York, the architecture and landscape honor the East End's built and natural environment and provide a new way to experience art with a sense of place afforded by no other museum.
Early Years: The Art Museum at Southampton
Samuel Longstreth Parrish (1849-1932) was born into a family of prominent Philadelphia Quakers and educated at Harvard College, where he first developed his taste for the Italian Renaissance. Parrish began collecting art seriously in the early 1880s, shortly after moving his successful law practice from Philadelphia to New York. During these same years, he regularly visited his family home in Southampton. The village, then as now a popular summer resort, quickly caught his interest and before long he became actively involved in its affairs.
While traveling in Italy in the fall of 1896, Parrish decided to build a museum in Southampton to house his rapidly growing collection of Italian Renaissance art and reproductions of classical Greek and Roman statuary. He purchased a small parcel of land adjacent to the Rogers Memorial Library on Jobs Lane and commissioned a fellow Southampton resident, the architect Grosvenor Atterbury (1869-1956), to design a suitable structure. Trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Atterbury designed the museum over a period of nearly twenty years.
The first Art Museum at Southampton, as the Parrish was then known, was a single large exhibition hall. Constructed in wood and entered from Main Street, the hall was built during the summer of 1897. A Concert Hall was added in 1905, and the wing to the street was constructed nine years later. An Aboretum was laid out on the Museum’s grounds as well, with a plant list contributed by the well-known landscape architect Warren H. Manning (1860 – 1938).
The Parrish Art Museum
Parrish’s death in 1932, coupled with the Depression and the war years that followed, slowed developments at the Museum. By 1941, the Village of Southampton accepted the building, grounds, and founding collection as a gift from Parrish’s estate.
In the 1950s, a civic-minded Southamptonite with an abiding interest in the arts, Mrs. Robert Malcolm Littlejohn, became President of the Board and took on the overwhelming task of reviving the Museum. A heating system was installed so the building could remain open year-round and a charter was obtained from the New York State Board of Regents, recognizing the Museum as an educational institution.
Perhaps most important, Mrs. Littlejohn believed the museum should look not only to the past civilizations but to American artists, especially those who had worked on the East End of Long Island. Her estimable collection of American paintings, including those of William Merritt Chase, Thomas Moran, and Childe Hassam, which she bequeathed to the Parrish, became the core of the outstanding collection of American paintings held by the Museum today.
By the mid-1980s it was clear that the Parrish had outgrown its original building, which lacked not only the basic infrastructure required by a professional museum but also the space necessary to share its collection with the public along with temporary exhibitions. In 2005 the Museum purchased fourteen acres in Water Mill, New York, and the Board of Trustees selected the internationally celebrated architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron to design a new and expanded building there. Ground was broken in July 2010, and the 34,400 square-foot building opened to the public November 10, 2012.
Forms 990 filed with the IRS available at guidestar.org