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A Vassar Visionary: Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn Brings Her Collection to her Alma Mater

Rural Intelligence Arts Section Image

Onyx bust by Barry X Ball, 2007-2008

Since 2002, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn (Vassar class of ‘89) has been exhibiting contemporary art at Salon 94, which is located downstairs from her home on New York’s Upper East Side. Now she is bringing pieces from her cutting-edge private collection to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College for an exhibit, Excerpt: Seclection from the Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn Collection.  An independent curator and art consultant, Rohatyn is lending the museum mostly 21st century works—by artists such as Marilyn Minter, Richard Prince and Laurie Simmons— that show “evidence of a diverse set of social, political, ethnic, and intergenerational interests,” according to Mary-Kay Lombino, the curator who organized the exhibition and interviewed Rohatyn for the catalog.

Growing up in St. Louis, Rohatyn learned about art from her father who had a gallery that showed work by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Serra and Donald Judd. She told Lombino about a party that her parents gave for Warhol at their home where the powder room’s walls were covered in Warhol’s purple Mao wallpaper. “During the opening evening’s celebrations, a shy wigged Warhol hung out in this bathroom, signing Campbell’s Soup cans nicked from our pantry by my parents’ friends,” she recalled. “I stood below him—and when he had a break he would doodle bananas on a napkin for me. It was much later when I was at Vassar that I saw the Velvet Underground album cover that features Warhol’s banana drawings.”

Rural Intelligence ArtsThe study of art has always been central to the Vassar curriculum;  it was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery when it opened in 1864. “The museum was always a great walk-through,” Rohatyn told Lombino. “There, I discovered Florine Stettheimer’s 1927 Natatorium Undine. The painting became the inspiration for an exhibition I mounted years later in 1995 in the green room of the Gramercy Hotel at the Gramercy Contemporary Art Fair, entitled The Florine Stettheimer Collapsed Time Salon. . . . We recreated her salon in spirit—combining works by Warhol, Jeff Koons and a then emerging Elizabeth Peyton—and borrowed from Columbia University some of Stettheimer’s greatest paintings, including her self-portrait as the nude Olympia. Imitating her aesthetic, we covered the walls with cellophane, and Virgil Thomas was played on the piano.”

Rohatyn is known for keen instincts and supporting new talent.  “As a patron of young artists, I often buy early on, yet I am priced out of their market soon thereafter,” she says.  “I have made a commitment to a handful of artists, whom I will continue to support. I will keep working to afford their work. Katy Grannan makes a portrait of our children every year that we use as our signature holiday card. We also collect her work in depth.”

Excerpt includes eight portraits by Grannan of the Rohatyn children, which were used as the family’s holiday cards from 2000 - 2007. The earliest work is a nude portrait of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn while she is pregnant with Alexander, her oldest child,” says Lombino. “Never before shown publicly, these one-of-a-kind photographs ordinarily occupy the walls of the Rohatyn household. While these images possess the extraordinary intimacy, spontaneity, and authenticity typical of Grannan’s style, they stand apart from much of her other work in their buoyant mood and atmosphere of warm domestic familiarity. Collectively, these nine photographs candidly trace the tender first years of a growing family and capture the rapidly changing nature of young children from one year to the next.”

Excerpt: Selections from the Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn Collection
Opening Reception and Lecture
September 26, 2008
5 PM: Brian Shoils, art critic and editor of, will give a lecture entitled, “On Shifting Ground in New York.”
6 PM: Reception in the Atrium of The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie; 845.437.5632
Tuesday - Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM, Thursday ‘till 9 PM
Sunday 1 PM - 5 PM
Admission: Free
Rural Intelligence Arts
Wangechi Mutu, The Mare, 2007
Mixed media on mylar
85 x 60 in.
Collection of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn
© Wangechi Mutu

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 09/24/08 at 10:49 AM • Permalink