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Off-season art scene
In the mid-20th Century, the Hamptons were home to many artists looking to escape New York City, and the most prominent was Jackson Pollack and his wife Lee Krasner. You can visit their modest East Hampton home, the Pollack-Krasner House until the beginning of November (it then closes until May) and tour the studio where Pollack created his famous drip paintings. The floors are still splattered with paint that never made it onto canvases.

About six miles away is East Hampton’s LongHouse Reserve, a museum and sculpture garden founded by textile designer Jack Larsen. Nestled among 16 acres of intricately landscaped garden paths, ponds and bridges are dozens of quirky sculptures including Yoko Ono’s giant chess set, and works by such notables as Sol Lewitt and Willem de Kooning. LongHouse is open until the end of December and reopens in late April.  

Another find for the contemporary art enthusiast is the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton. This museum, housed in an old firehouse-cum-Baptist chapel, is dedicated to the fluorescent light sculptures of famed minimalist artist Dan Flavin. Nine pieces are on permanent display along with one annually changing exhibition; this year it is works by the Paris-based artist Jean Luc-Molène.

The Parrish Art Museum, the area’s oldest cultural institution, has been exhibiting art since 1898 in Southampton , but on 10 November they will move into a soaring new Herzog & de Meuron-designed building in the town of Water Mill. The museum’s extensive collection focuses on artists who worked and lived on eastern Long Island, like Pollack, Krasner, de Kooning and Roy Lichtenstein.

The other major cultural centre in the area is Guild Hall in East Hampton. Created in 1930s, it is an excellent place to see live theatre, films (do not miss the annual Hamptons Film Festival, running from 4 to 8 October this year) and art exhibitions from local talent. A display devoted to the record album cover artist John Berg, who designed iconic covers for Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Bruce Springsteen among others, is running through January.

For the off-season traveller more interested in history than art, two other museums are worth a look. The Southampton Historical Museum consists of two historic homes, Rogers Mansion, an 1840s Greek Revival built by a prominent whaling captain, and the Halsey Homestead, a saltbox house built in 1660, just a few years after the first European settlers arrived in the area. The Rogers Mansion has period rooms with Edwardian decor, a vintage toy collection and an interesting collection of photographs from the 1938 hurricane, which decimated much of Long Island’s southern shore.  The Halsey Homestead is a restored mid-17th-century colonial cottage with period furniture. A few miles away is the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum,  which celebrates the town’s former industry and will fascinate fisherman and history buffs alike.

Where to stay
A rental home is the best base, be it a cedar-shingled cottage or a grand estate, and many can be researched online. Summer fees are exorbitant (expect to pay several thousands of dollars per week and have lengthy minimum stays), but off-season prices drop dramatically,

The appeal of a private residence can be replicated at lower prices at the excellent Inn at Windmill Lane in the village of Amagansett. This oasis rents cottages or suites, and even in the dead of winter this sanctuary, with its fireplaces and solitude, is perfect for a weekend getaway.

More traditional hotel offerings can be found at the whitewashed, plank sided Bridgehampton Inn, the darling and convivial Hampton Maid in Southampton, or the old-world American Hotel in Sag Harbor which dates from 1848 and has some of the comfiest beds known to man.

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