“I prefer to come at the art world from as many angles as I can,” Greenberg Rohatyn said one day this past April. “Repetition isn’t interesting to me.” It was two days before she would install David Benjamin Sherry’s psychedelic abstractions of American deserts and parks in her downtown outposts and host his family and friends at her home in celebration of the rising photographer’s New York debut. But for now she was in her Manhattan home curled up on a distressed-suede-and-plywood sofa by Owens, dressed in a black Owens jumpsuit with sleeves of different lengths. Her hair was cut supershort in the front, with bangs circling her hairline à la Rooney Mara—but left long and curly in the back, with the tips dyed blonde. She wore a necklace made of black rope and no makeup.
As we walked around, she pointed out the works she’d installed from her own collection in her parlor-floor living and dining rooms. Hung in the landing was David Hammons’s Untitled (basketball chandelier), a backboard and hoop woven with crystals and glass; nearby, Hella Jongerius’s madcap Frog table mingled with Stars at a Glance, Sarah Lucas’s cheeky bra-and-platform-shoe sculpture from 2007, and paintings by Julie Mehretu and Mike Kelley. In 2010, Nate Lowman and Hanna Liden asked to present a collaborative project in her home because the two friends wanted their work to be seen in a domestic—not downtown—setting, even though Greenberg Rohatyn doesn’t represent them. “She’s fearless,” Lowman says. “She’s got crazy furniture, crazy art, and it’s all piled in together.”
In fact, it was seeing how Greenberg Rohatyn lived with the art she collected that convinced Marilyn Minter that she wanted to show with her. (And has no doubt helped buyers imagine how art might look in their own homes.) “To this day, the best piece of art I’ve ever seen is that chandelier by David Hammons. I’d give my right arm for it. And she has a wall in her dining room by Kara Walker and these two Chris Ofilis with the elephant dung. I walked in and thought, Oh, man, this is someone with a real vision.” Minter’s career had stalled, as had Laurie Simmons’s and Lorna Simpson’s, when Greenberg Rohatyn began taking a closer look. “I’m interested in that crucial moment when, for whatever reason, the art world has turned its back on certain artists a little bit, and they’ve gone back into their studios quietly and started to work differently,” Greenberg Rohatyn said. “It takes a lot of power to do that; you really have to look in on yourself, and I’m fascinated by what comes out of that. Marilyn had stopped using appropriated images and begun creating her own by picking up the camera. Laurie had finished her first film [2006’s The Music of Regret, coproduced by Greenberg Rohatyn and starring Meryl Streep], which became a retrospective of all she’d done—and she had to start entirely new. I wouldn’t have shown her had she next done a reprisal of her older work.” The two had “a combative relationship over the editing of the film,” recalls Simmons, because “Jeanne was right in there with creative decisions, something most dealers don’t do.” But three years later, after Simmons finished a new series of photographs of a life-size sex doll posed as a modern girl lounging about the house, she asked Greenberg Rohatyn to become her dealer. “I came to really trust her eye.”