Its name actually says it all: Onna (own-ah), the Japanese word for woman.
Tucked away on Georgica Road in East Hampton, south of Montauk Highway, is Onna House, the private residence of fashion designer, lifestyle entrepreneur and avid art collector Lisa Perry. In addition to the permanent collection meticulously curated by Perry and her team, the location also houses three open-to-the-public exhibitions since its inaugural year, allowing East Enders to take in work that not only moves Perry, but moves the needle.
After purchasing the Japanese-inspired modernist house, originally built in the early ’60s, Perry finished the restoration in 2021 and began filling the home with uniquely crafted artwork, collectibles and furniture. Picture a modern-day Peggy Guggenheim, with her own specific and utterly unique style shining through her carefully curated collection, with visibility of the artists’ work remaining the most important objective.
Nearly all the pieces on display at Onna House have one thing in common: They were made and designed by women.
Perry is a self-described champion of women’s rights “going back for as long as I can remember.” Her efforts as owner and founder of Onna House proved paramount, and ultimately successful, in creating a safe space for women artists to display their work harmoniously together. Operating as a private home, the vibe of Onna House is that of an extensive gallery designed within a livable space, with Perry’s handpicked private collection complementing the current exhibitions on display. Price points are available upon request to help guide visitors and potential collectors.
“Here we are, it’s 2023, and we now have a permanent platform for women artists,” says Perry, who formerly owned and operated boutiques in Sag Harbor and East Hampton. “I can now bring all my great loves together. My passions: architecture, art and design.”
Perry’s permanent collection juxtaposes works on paper with sculpture, woven pieces with ceramics and textiles with paintings. It includes pieces by over 40 women artists from practically every walk of life imaginable.
The ample roster of internationally renowned female artists, writers and designers represented here includes fellow South Fork residents, Almond Zigmund, Candace Hill-Montgomery, Nicole Corbett, Mary Ellen Bartley, Sabra Moon Elliot and Toni Ross, to name a few. Other featured artists and creators include American-born, Berlin-based Christine Sun Kim, Japanese textile artist and weaver Mitsuko Asakura and woodworker and furniture designer Nina Cho.
In May, Onna House celebrated its one-year anniversary, kicking off its 2023 season on Memorial Day weekend with a nearly month-long exhibit aptly entitled “Pearls, Pills and Protests,” which offered an artistically driven study of women’s rights set against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. More traditional mediums such as needlepoint, large-scale sculpture and drawing, as well as slightly more progressive artwork, like handbags and interactive pieces, were featured in that exhibition not only to celebrate women but as a nod to efforts to promoting advocacy for women’s health and safety.
“I felt so dedicated to this cause,” says Perry, who for the past 30 years actively worked in politics, noting the consistently huge imbalances when it comes to reproductive rights for women. “I started getting involved, I had a daughter, things just kept happening,” she says.
In July, the focus at Onna House was ceramics via an exhibition entitled “Nature/Nurture,” a medium close to the heart for Perry, whose mother owned a gallery outside Chicago nearly 50 years ago that specialized in ceramics — specifically pottery, as it was usually called in the ’70s.
“Most of this work, people haven’t seen yet,” Perry says of the July exhibition. “It’s a tremendous chance for some of the lesser seen women artists.”
From August 7 through September 5, the exhibit entitled “Supernatural Beauty,” featuring the work of Adriana Meunié, Lisa Eisner, Saskia Friedrich, Tamiko Kawata, Lisbeth McCoy and Setsuko Morita showcases a broad range of mediums, from textile art to metal sculpture to jewelry.
Designed in 1962 by prolific architect Paul Lester Wiener, the house was originally owned by the New York City-based couple Ethel and Robert Scull. Well known for building an extensive and elaborate collection of modern and pop art, the pair eventually moved east, purchased an acre-and-a-half in 1961 and built a Japanese-meets-midcentury modern home.
The Sculls ultimately filled it with original pieces from the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and other art-world luminaries. Among them was Warhol’s depiction of Ethel in the style of his famous “Marilyn Diptych” from 1962. Fun fact for those keeping score: “Ethel Scull 36 Times” (1963) was Warhol’s first commission, requested by Robert as a birthday present for his wife, and is now owned jointly by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A longtime art collector, style specialist and curator in her own right, Perry is carrying on the tradition of the home’s previous owners, highlighting Wiener’s original architecture and preserving the inherent characteristics of the home, while simultaneously adding modern amenities and securing her vision of promoting female artists’ work.
“The amount of work these artists do, it’s incredible,” Perry says. “All of these women who have come to Onna House, they’re incredible. They really are.”
Visits to Onna House are by appointment only. Check out their website for more information.