As a young curator, following her stint at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts in the early nineties, Greenberg Rohatyn assisted then Royal Academy of Arts director Norman Rosenthal with a survey of American art from a European perspective. “I looked at his list and said, ‘Where are the women and the black artists?’ It was not something that was discussed at the time.” To which Rosenthal replied: “Start by finding David Hammons.” A famously elusive African-American artist, Hammons has long worked independently of the art world. Greenberg tracked him down in Harlem, first leaving phone messages and then, when she got no response, flowers and notes outside what she thought was his studio. “You’ve been leaving them on the wrong floor,” he told her when they finally met. That she talks to Hammons on a regular basis and has occasionally sold his work (though she doesn’t represent him) has won her the admiration of many artists. “He is above the law in the art world, and he doesn’t mess with many people,” Lowman says.
She also counts Jay-Z and New York Yankees superstar Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez as art advisory clients. After Rodriguez admired the smiley-face painting by Lowman in Greenberg Rohatyn’s living room, she persuaded him to begin collecting artists of his own generation. In addition, she immediately got Lowman on the phone and asked if he’d make a new painting for Rodriguez; then she set up Rodriguez’s first-ever studio visit. During Art Basel Miami Beach last November, Rodriguez welcomed VIPs into his bayside Miami manse, which was hung with part of the collection Greenberg Rohatyn had helped him build, including pieces by Minter, Warhol, and George Condo. The chief draw, however, was Rodriguez’s giant indoor batting cage, where Lowman had installed an exhibition of new works.
Canny about responding to the cultural moment, Greenberg Rohatyn recently took on Jayson Musson—who as his alter ego Hennessy Youngman stars in the YouTube series “Art Thoughtz.” The videos feature Youngman mocking art-world obsessions, from Damien Hirst to relational aesthetics, through the wickedly astute perspective of a hip-hop fan. In April, at the invitation of Minter, Musson curated a show at Family Business, Maurizio Cattelan’s new Chelsea gallery, and asked his Internet and Twitter followers to drop off an artwork. The opening turned into a raucous block party. Minter recalls that she, Greenberg Rohatyn, and Cattelan were fascinated to discover an audience none of them had ever seen. “Jeanne didn’t think twice about representing him,” Minter says. “She jumped.”
Musson was at work in the gallery space of Greenberg Rohatyn’s townhouse when I stopped by this past summer. Inspired by the colorful Coogi sweaters worn by the likes of Bill Cosby and the rapper Notorious B.I.G., he was shredding fabric into piles, then stitching and framing the pieces to create what looked like abstract paintings for a show at Salon 94 Bowery. “It’s my first 2-D work,” he said. To Greenberg Rohatyn, it was another “crucial moment.” This go-round, Musson was dispensing with words and Hennessy’s comedy, presenting only visual artworks. To prepare, he was living in her guest room for the month because his Brooklyn studio was too cramped. One night, he told me, he was watching The Office in his room when Greenberg Rohatyn knocked on the door and ushered inside her good friend, the hip-hop mogul Lyor Cohen. “That was probably the most insane thing about living here—the night she brought Lyor Cohen into my room, and I showed him my videos. We watched the one on Damien Hirst, and he laughed his ass off. I was like, Whoa! I am not prepared for this at all!”