New York City is the culture capital of the world, and its energetic and diverse art scene is its heartbeat. For more than two decades, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn has had her finger on the pulse. In 2003, the collector, curator and dealer launched her now iconic gallery, Salon 94, from her family’s Upper East Side townhouse. She has since opened three locations across the city, including the gallery’s new flagship on East 89th Street across from the Guggenheim museum.
With a distinct eye for discovering young and emerging talent, Greenberg Rohatyn has helped launch the careers of countless artists. She is also responsible for facilitating collaborations across industries, including our very own with ceramicist and sculptor Francesca DiMattio. Tory collaborated with DiMattio — whose work has exhibited at Salon 94 half a dozen times — on our Fall/Winter 2020 collection. “Tory is always great at absorbing the spirit and creativity of artists,” Greenberg Rohatyn says. In addition to supplying eleven incredible sculptures that appeared on the Fall runway, DiMattio created different prints that could be found across the collection.
Earlier this month, Tory Daily visited with Greenberg Rohatyn at Salon 94’s new gallery space for a conversation on art, music and all things New York.
What is your earliest art memory?
Growing up I was surrounded by art — my father worked as an art dealer and my mother an art writer… We lived next door to his colleague and great friend Joe Helman. His kids were the same ages as my sisters and I, and we often played in their cream-colored sunken living room, where we climbed on a now-famous Claes Oldenberg’s soft sculpture, Giant Loaf Raisin Bread, Sliced of 1966/67. It was an irresistible “no no.”
In 1976, St. Louis’ Laumeier Sculpture Park opened, and I remember my mom picking me up and setting me on a swinging Mark di Suvero sculpture. The sculptor had previously worked in a California shipyard, and, here, he played with balance and counterbalance using a crane and an I-beam. He wanted to make art as accessible as possible. Ming 2, 1973 functioned like a tire swing, with a bell shape ‘seat’ suspended by a cable. I hadn’t thought of this sculpture (or the raisin bread!) until opening my gallery in a new building and seeing how happy and animated kids were playing on Niki de Saint Phalle’s monumental Gaurdian Lions.
While most art is not made for children, I’m now tempted to say that more should be… Derrick Adams has just been commissioned to design and create a playground, for example.
An artist or work of art that changed your life and why?
A small Cezanne painting, Seven Bathers (1900), changed my relationship to art. Seeing it for the first time in Earnst Beyler’s Basel office, my enchantment and profound awe turned to an intense desire to own it. In front of this Cezanne at the age of 13, I became an art collector. The impulse to own this Cezanne — which I now visit regularly at the Beyler Foundation — shifted my enjoyment to a sense of purpose and study, motivating me to work in art.
How would you describe your personal style? How has it changed over the years?
My style is epicene classic, with a hint of 70’s disco. I’m prone to jumpsuits, halter-tops, velour, puff and sparkle. Soul Train, Katherine Hepburn in Saint Laurent, and watching my mom in Halston are my early influences. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed incorporating prints by Rodarte, Duro Olowu and Tory Burch.
Francesca DiMattio describes getting dressed as her first creative act of the day. Dressing as a compositional puzzle. Out of necessity and now habit, I dress with great speed, and tend towards comfort. Even while only spending a few minutes, I agree with Francesca that dressing can be wonderfully imaginative and helps define your mood for the day. I have consistently invested in great separates and enjoy a mix and match.
I also keep my favorite dresses for decades until I recycle them. My daughter Coco just wore a vintage Lanvin cream halter dress with tight chiffon pleats to her high school graduation. It barely needed retooling!
What musicians, songs or albums do you have on constant rotation?
I tend to take from the playlists of my kids as well as from artists and clients in the music industry. Left on my own- my rotation is: Nina Simone, Erica Badu, updated to Lizzo..
Artist Karon Davis is listening to Flying Lotus, Robert Glasper and Shawanda Corbett. “Springtime again” by Sun Ra, “It’s a Beautiful Evening” by Donald Byrd, “Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by Cannonball Adderley Quintet Album, “We are sent here by history” by Shabaka and the Ancestors…
24 hours in New York City:
Start with a brisk walk in Central Park with a friend, end up on 89th to go see the Deana Lawson at Guggenheim, and then cross the street to Salon 94. Head down to the Whitney Museum to see the Julie Mehretu exhibition, walk out to the water to see the David Hammons and explore the new Little Island. Go for a quick lunch at Lola Taverna or Balthazar
Dinner at a great sushi bar — Sushi Ishikawa or Sushi Noz — and stop by Japanese jazz club Tomi Jazz afterwards.
What do you love about New York City?
Diversity of voices, cultural values, concentration of great art and crackling energy. New Yorkers of all ages have their own celebrated individuality and style. I like to think of NYC as enchanted, and we are its warriors and fairies.
Favorite NY expressions:
“I’m a couple of blocks away,” which usually means I’m running 10 minutes late…
How do you see the relationship between fashion and art? Specifically, since art has always been a big inspiration for Tory, how do you see it influencing her collections?
Art references can be found on all the story boards of Tory’s collections. Her layering in of a pattern or a type of clothing is never superficial. She likes to bring into focus visual artists who have changed the way she sees and share their stories. We are both invested in creative people — particularly women — expressing themselves by making things.