Suzanne Geiss is sitting in her office at 76 Grand Street in Manhattan, the same spot where Jeffrey Deitch once spent his workdays, prior to closing his celebrated SoHo gallery in 2010 to head up the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “This looked like a professor’s office when Jeffrey was here,” recalls Geiss, a director at Deitch Projects for more than 10 years, who recently opened her eponymous gallery at the same address. During Deitch’s tenure, bookshelves tended to overflow. Now, the space’s white austerity is interrupted only by a sharp hit of full-spectrum colors from bolster pillows on a commode designed by Rafael de Cárdenas, who oversaw the revamping of the 4,000-square-foot space.
“Suzanne is very particular about the way things are,” says Cary Leitzes, her friend, collaborator, and—ever since they moved into the space together last October—housemate. Leitzes & Co., which Leitzes founded in 2005, is, among other things, a matchmaker of artists and commercial brands (she facilitated Marilyn Minter’s MAC collaboration, for instance). She is installed above Geiss’s street-level public gallery, up a winding staircase so unnervingly tight that, she jokes, “you can’t be fat or tall to work here.”
The two entrepreneurs met in 2000, when Geiss helped Leitzes—then the photo director of Harper’s Bazaar—produce a shoot that was supposed to include all of Deitch’s 28 artists in one frame. (“A complete shit show,” Leitzes says.) They’ve been combining forces ever since. In tandem with the gallery’s Antonio Lopez retrospective, Leitzes brokered an apparel collaboration between the artist’s estate and Kenzo, launching this month. “It’s a holistic approach,” she says of their neighbors-with-benefits cohabitation. Things got especially cozy recently when Geiss moved her storefront desk upstairs—in the room next to Leitzes’s—and into her ex-boss’s former office. Not that it was an act of hubris or a sign of some downtown-art-world torch being passed. “Really,” Geiss says, “I just get freaked out by people walking in off the street.”