Bob Peters wasn’t an artist, but he deeply appreciated the work of those who were.
So when the avid collector, who lived in Manhattan and had a home in Southold, died unexpectedly in December at age 75, his family found themselves wondering what to do with his massive compendium — particularly his impressive library of thousands of art books.
“We reached out to many different people about the books and anyone who was biting we would chat with,” said his 44-year-old daughter, Jenny Peters, who lives in Brooklyn.
In the end, Ms. Peters said, it was her father’s friend Glynis Berry of Orient — an architect who co-owns Art Sites gallery in Riverhead — who came up with the perfect idea, to sell around 400 of the titles in a temporary bookstore, with all sales benefiting Ms. Berry’s water quality initiatives group, Peconic Green Growth.
“The market for art books is not what it used to be,” Ms. Peters said. She added that it’s important for the donated books, which cover a wide range of topics, including ethnographic, contemporary and historic art, archaeology and history, to find homes where they will be enjoyed.
On Saturday evening, the “pop-up” bookstore officially debuted during a cocktail party at Arts Sites. It will operate until all the titles are sold, Ms. Berry said. Books range from $1 to $100 and come with a 20 percent discount at the register.
Ms. Berry said prospective customers are also welcome to take a seat on one of the benches at her West Main Street gallery and simply peruse titles.
“People don’t have to buy,” she said. “They can just sit and enjoy.”
In addition to the books, Ms. Peters has donated numerous selections of artwork from her father’s collection. Those items will be auctioned at Art for Green’s Sake, an event scheduled for Aug. 30 at Poquatuck Hall in Orient. Sale proceeds will again benefit Peconic Green Growth, which was created in 2011 and focuses primarily on local wastewater issues.
Ms. Peters, who said her father once worked on Wall Street and had a gruff exterior, was always passionate about art.
“He had a truly encyclopedic knowledge of art from cultures around the world,” she said, and he was especially interested in ethnographic art of non-western peoples, including Native American tribes, ancient Egyptians and the Byzantines.
Throughout his life, Ms. Peters said, her father sold much of the artwork he acquired to high-end auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. He was also friends with many North Fork artists and owned pieces by such area artists as Bennet Blackburn.
Mr. Peter’s Southold house was a veritable museum, his daughter said.
Despite her father’s enthusiasm, she said, she never found out how he, whom she described as a “real character” with an “intense personality,” developed an interest in art.
“I don’t know,” she said. “He wasn’t a gushy, sentimental guy. He went into engineering and worked at IBM before transitioning to Wall Street because that’s what he felt like he had to do to achieve financial security and raise a family. But I think art was always there.”
On Saturday, Mary Dowd of Greenport was found browsing the temporary bookstore’s art nouveau section.
“It’s an interesting collection,” she said as she cradled a hardcover title in her arms. “I heard they were selling so I came on down.”
Ms. Berry hopes others will also hear about the venture and do the same. She and Ms. Peters both think Mr. Peters would heartily approve of the bookstore.
“He was a man who loved books and couldn’t walk by a used bookstore without popping in and finding something he needed,” Ms. Peters said.
“I think he would definitely be happy,” Ms. Berry added. “Bob loved art so much and he was knowledgeable. I think he would enjoy sharing his passion.”
Art Sites, located at 651 W. Main Street, Riverhead, is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The temporary bookstore will operate during regular business hours.
Art for Green’s Sake will be held Aug. 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Poquatuck Hall, Village Lane, Orient. Admission is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. To view items to be auctioned, visit https://www.biddingforgood.com/pgg2013. For more information about the pop-up bookstore or art auction, call 631-591-2401 or visit peconicgreengrowth.org.