In the Rosenberg dynasty, the great-granddaughter is a new asset. Her entry into the gallery world (she only opened her own in New York gallery in 2015) represents the fourth generation of this influential name in the landscape of modern art. She talks to us with great openness.
Though based in the US, you are also in Europe a lot.
This echoes the history of my grandfather's gallery. He was based in Paris, but also present throughout Europe, and would often go to the US as well, long before the war, having grasped the advantages of both markets. And I come from two cultures myself: my father is French, my mother American.
Does your family history still nourish you?
How could it be otherwise? Imagine the world I grew up in! Picasso countersigned the birth certificate of my father Alexandre as a witness, and was also his godfather. As a child, I used to walk through the gallery every day before going to the apartment above. Every summer, we visited Europe and its museums. We would enter the Prado at 9 o'clock, and only leave at closing time. In Venice, we would go to the Cipriani, where we hung out with Graham Sutherland, and then visit Giacomo Manzù. When I was 13, I knew Picasso. All these friendships seemed normal, like all the works hanging on the walls. For me, it's always been obvious to have a gallery. But my father, who had taken over from his own father, told me no, and I never knew why. He was a very cerebral man, terribly marked by the Second World War – very different from his father Paul, a dealer with a crazy charisma, and a workaholic with encyclopedic knowledge. So I went to law school, was hired by an American law firm based in Paris, and then admitted to the New York bar. I had a good career in international finance, but the idea of a gallery was always there. And at a certain point, collecting was no longer enough; I really needed to return to my roots.
So you've taken up the torch?
Yes, but by opening my own gallery. In New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co. is now an empty shell, and its premises rented out. I've moved into an old house with period parquet floors, and I show my own collection. I stay true to the family's core approach by exhibiting Impressionists, Cubists and modern art in general. I still have enormous respect for Paul, and for Léonce too, who was an exceptional visionary with incredible energy. But I also present my own discoveries: various contemporary artists, including the British artist Brendan Stuart Burns and the sculptor Ann Christopher, as well as Maureen Chatfield and the estate of Jeffrey Wasserman, who worked with Pollock. Incidentally, they showed contemporary art as well, in their time!
How did the market greet you?
With open arms! The Observer even devoted an article to me on my opening exhibition, "Inspired by History", where I presented Picasso, Braque, Severini and a few others as a tribute to my family. I am well aware that my name is an asset. At the same time, it compels me to seek the very best. I'm a truly ardent defender of galleries; I want them to succeed. That's another point I have in common with Anisabelle Berès (president of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires – Ed.). In fact, I very soon set about creating an association of Upper East Side galleries, which lays on a Gallery Week the weekend before the Spring TEFAF opens. Nearly sixty galleries are now involved. It's an open day that includes symposiums, to make these places appeal to as many as possible, so they really get to feel at home there. Auctions make life difficult for us with the price indexes they establish... We have to stick together and strengthen our unity.
And since you set up shop, you have been participating in several fairs...
Yes, because each one has its own character. This fall, I was at Fine Arts Paris, which is open to sculptures in particular and has an erudite public; Art Miami, which is geared towards contemporary art, and because I wanted to be part of a show in the US, and of course the Biennale Paris, where I was the only American gallery. This was my second time, and though it needs a bit of a makeover, the event is held in a fairy-tale venue (...) And I will be at the Salon du Dessin in the spring, which is an unalloyed pleasure. For me, there is no difference between a sheet of paper, a piece of cardboard or a canvas, as long as artists express themselves. I like the ephemeral side of fairs: that's what makes them so magical.
Tell us about your battle for the restitution of looted works...
I am profoundly convinced I am on a real quest, rather like a medieval knight. Looting is a terrible injustice, and I'm engaged in a fierce fight against it. It's really frustrating; the works are found in dribs and drabs, and sometimes through pure chance. I find it hard to forgive French museums; they are very tough. The amount of evidence we are asked for is unbelievable. But I consider myself lucky, because we have all the inventory files, all the archives. They were taken to London by my grandfather. Paul was an extremely far-sighted person. From 1938 onwards, he stopped leaving the works he bought in France. He sent everything to America, and loaned many to exhibitions, as far away as Australia. In 1940, he was forced to close the gallery and just before fleeing France to America via Portugal, he hid hundreds of paintings by Matisse, Braque, Picasso and many others in a safe – the entire collection that was in Rue La Boétie. Everything was looted by the Nazis. We still have to retrieve sixty-seven paintings, only one of which has been identified to date: the Degas sold by a dealer who knows perfectly well that it is a looted work (Portrait de Mademoiselle Gabrielle Diot, 1896, pastel – Ed.), but refuses to admit it. I will never give up. And that's the lawyer talking!