Bundled in a bulky, sculptural, gray Rodarte sweater, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, the gallerist and art adviser who recently played a judge on Bravo’s reality TV show, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, took a break before a cocktail party she was giving to talk about her current projects. Perched in her upstairs parlor, Ms. Greenberg Rohatyn was surrounded by art: a Richard Prince, a Mike Kelley, a sculpture by Huma Bhabha.
Since 2002, Ms. Greenberg has hosted openings and events in the townhouse she shares with her husband, Nick Rohatyn, and their three children, just off Fifth Avenue-from solo shows by artist Marilyn Minter to performances by Israeli stand-up Tamy Ben-Tor. In 2007, she opened a gallery (named, like the uptown space, Salon94) on quaint Freeman’s Alley on the Lower East Side. On Feb. 15, she will inaugurate a new gallery designed by Rafael Vinoly on the Bowery, just down from the New Museum.
The daughter of a St. Louis gallery owner and a children’s art book writer, and the daughter-in-law of famed financier Felix Rohatyn, Ms. Greenberg has created a quirky art world niche.
Tell me about your new space, Salon94 Bowery.
Our inaugural program for the official opening of the Bowery space is Laurie Simmons. I decided to do a year of programming with women. But I’ve never expressed that out loud. Because everybody assumes you can’t support a gallery on women artists and I disagree. … After Laurie Simmons, then comes Katy Grannan, Lorna Simpson, Kara Hamilton, Aida Ruilova and Marilyn Minter. Isn’t that cool?
What you’ve done with your spaces is very different from the Chelsea environment.
I do like the idea of being a little bit off the beaten track. I think art should be a little bit hard to find: One needs to take a pilgrimage to find it. I like the idea of playing with the white box, so I have always tweaked it and felt like it needed some drama. And I like the idea of building spaces that all have different characters. So, for instance, this space is a very elevated and aestheticized, but yet domestic space; my second space on Freeman’s Alley is much more rough-to quote Marilyn Minter, it looks like a barn. And then this new space on the Bowery performs in a sense like a crypt or an Egyptian tomb. We took out the floor, so you descend a stairwell into it.
What will the Laurie Simmons show there be like?
Laurie purchased a highly refined, customized sex doll from Japan-a lifelike, life-size girl that came with an engagement ring and female genitalia. … And she started to photograph the doll and turned her own house in Connecticut into kind of the doll’s house, and the doll has really become a surrogate daughter. The photographs are all large-scale, color, and the show documents Laurie’s getting to know the doll, from the day it arrived.
So this will be when you walk downstairs in the new space?
Yes, the space is done by the architect I’ve worked with on all my spaces, Raphael Vinoly, and when I told him that I wanted to lift the floor and do a double-height space, he said, there has to be a staircase, and he knew exactly how to do it. And one of the features of the gallery is a video wall on the outside.
Like Times Square?
It’s ten feet! It’s huge! It’s enormous! I figured, let’s just go for it. I like the dramatic effect. In part, it is theater. People make choices, are they going to go to the movies or are they going to go look at art.
So is there going to be a lot of rubber-necking on the Bowery?
I hope so. That’s something I learned from Marilyn Minter, actually. She wants people to have that spectacle and that’s something I think you should do, having people taking a second glance. I just hope we don’t have a bunch of people sitting out on the street watching the video.
Do you have a role model in terms of a gallerist?
I love Duveen and Bernard Berenson and Kahnweiler. My father [Ronnie Greenberg, a gallerist in St. Louis] is one of the great mentors. Paula Cooper is an art dealer whom I respect, yet I’ve built my program in the exact opposite of a Paula Cooper program. Hers is based around a certain aesthetic that she has maintained very consistently. Whereas I don’t believe that there is one aesthetic, so it’s much more eclectic-and it’s much more confusing to people. They can’t quite pinpoint what my program is.
Obviously you love beautiful fashion. Do you think there is a relationship between art and fashion?
Of course there is. Presentation is everything. And God is in the details. The way one presents oneself gives information and I like to be as open as possible. I am giving somebody information about what I like, what I am interested in, where I am in my life. There is a certain form of transparency and dialogue.
You were wearing the most amazing outfits on Bravo.
Those were all mine. I just brought in clothes from my closet.
You became famous, in a way, on Work of Art. What did you think of the concept of the show?
It works for certain artists better than others. It works for an artist who is used to reacting quickly, who has a very good vocabulary and kind of bag of tricks that they can draw from. … I think the show is a backhanded way to learn about the art-making process.
My favorite line was when you told one artist, ‘I haven’t seen pink look so drab in a long time.’
Are you going to judge again this season?
I’m not going to be a judge; I am going to work in an advisory capacity, as I originally did. I like it from a production side much more than from the performance side, which was a last-minute thing, although I had the time of my life. I may appear as a guest judge every once in a while.
What did you think of one writer calling you a ‘gallerist socialite’?
It was in a Bravo review. I think it was just incorrect. That said, a lot of the work we do is behind closed doors, and I understand that there is a Wizard of Oz aspect to the art world, and when you come and see everything hung and it looks like it was meant to be there, you really don’t have a clue that there was hours and hours of work done. I know when I read it, my heart sank, but now in retrospect, I am going to take it as a compliment. Because by the time somebody gets to the point where they see an exhibition or they meet me, it should look totally effortless.