Gallerist and curator Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn is known for her prowess in the art world — she founded experimental project space Salon94 in 2002 and is launching her third location on Bowery this fall. This summer, she’s also moonlighting as a judge on the first season of Bravo’s new reality show Work of Art. While her art savvy is undeniable, her wardrobe is equally impressive, packed with halter dresses and tanks by Chloé, Lanvin, and YSL.
Rohatyn views the designers behind her favorite labels as conceptual artists. “I like the idea that either a fashion designer or artist can create an iconic image,” she says. “Anything that jumps from art to fashion or graphic design is held high in my esteem.” We chatted with Rohatyn about her Rodarte-designed “woodland fairy” dress, finding the perfect white T-shirt, and her incredible, enviable closet.
Work of Art is only a few episodes into its debut season. Have you had any surprises while watching it?
It’s always surprising to see oneself on TV — surprising and rather painful. This is a moonlighting job for me — it took up a good 0.1 percent of my time — yet it’s probably the most public thing I’ve ever done.
Your father, Ronald Greenberg, is a well-known art dealer. Did you always know you would pursue art?
I grew up with white walls and very little furniture — he showed Warhol, Lichtenstein, Richard Serra, and other great artists of his generation. When I was young, my father would play games with me, wherever we were in the world: Which painting would you take home? Which would you sell? Pick the best picture. We played the art game like most families play baseball.
When did you start following fashion?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and how people represent themselves in public. My mother used to say you can always judge a man by his shoes. I’m interested in people who have a particular uniform or who dress up in costume.
Do you ever dress in costume?
The daughter of a very close friend of mine is having a wedding and the theme is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m going to wear something by Rodarte that reminds me of being a fairy in the forest. I want to become part of the drama of the night; I love that aspect of clothing.
Who are your favorite designers?
I like avant-garde clothes, like Slow and Steady Wins the Race. I have a stack of T-shirts from them and each looks as though someone took a pair of shears and cut holes in them. They’re baggy and comfortable and fun — just perfect T-shirts. And Duro, a collector of fabrics, has the history of fabric design in his clothing: He’ll pair an old scuzzy fabric with something new from Africa.
What was the first designer item you bought?
A pleated Chloé dress, a very long time ago. I still wear it every once in a while.
Do you ever clean out your closet?
I don’t buy a lot of clothes, but if I’m going to spend real money then I’ll buy things that stay in my closet for years and years. I still wear clothes I had in college. When I was married, I wore an incredible Valentino dress post-wedding. I haven’t worn it in ten years, but I know I’ll wear it again.
Do you equate art with fashion?
There are links all the time. Sometimes, if I’m dissatisfied with the art I’ve seen, I go to fashion to fill the void. The difference is that fashion is seasonal. If art smells of the season it’s probably not good, whereas women love clothing to be of the season.
Are there any designers in particular that blur the line?
Slow and Steady is a form of conceptual art, in a way. Rodarte might be more folksy, but they approach their clothes as a craft. Rick Owens has maintained a very precise vision, which is something only a very focused artist can do.
How would you describe your personal style?
There’s a certain consistency; I have a basic canvas. I have five pairs of the same pants in my closet. I have a group of Rick Owens halter tops in various colors. There are also certain Stella McCartney dresses that I love and wear constantly.
What trends are you appreciating now?
I’m so glad clogs are in. I have a pair of Rick Owens gray clogs on right now. I’ve also always loved the jumpsuit — I have a little jumpsuit section in my closet.
Any trends you’re ready to see retired?
I don’t dress according to trends. I bought a few things from the last collection that Tom Ford did at YSL, but I’ve never worn them. When I feel they’re suitable and their fashion moment has passed, then I know I’ll wear them.
What’s one item you’re saving to buy?
This year Tory Burch made a pair of shorts out of tie-dyed leather. It seems so absurd and quirky to wear tie-dyed leather shorts, but I love them; they’re probably going to be my favorite item this summer.
What should every woman have in her closet?
A simple black dress. I have one from Lanvin that I wear to all occasions — it has hidden snaps in the front so you can put it on like a robe, then throw on a belt. Then I have my ladylike black dress by YSL, and I have a couple of newer, sexier versions, like one from Jason Wu.
What’s something you never leave the house without?
I’m always wearing my wedding ring and I have a specimen rock on me at all times, in my ears or around my neck. Even if I’m running to my yoga class, I wear little earrings that are uncut diamonds or Fool’s Gold or other rocks. It’s become part of a superstitious energy.