STL Now: Judge Jeanne
St. Louis native Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn takes an unlikely leap from renowned art advisor and international curator to reality TV.
Art is a family business for Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, whose father is prominent art dealer Ronnie Greenberg of St. Louis’ respected Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, and whose mother is art book writer Jan Greenberg. Growing up in St. Louis, Rohatyn’s home was fi lled with beautiful works of art and often, the artists who created them. “Our home was filled with 60s Pop, Warhol and Lichtenstein,” Rohatyn recalls. “Recently, a Lichtenstein called ‘Bananas and Grapefruit’ that hung over our dining room mantle was shown at Gagosian Gallery in New York. In front of it, memories of my parent’s house and their many dinner parties came flooding back; it was funny feeling sentimental over a bowl of fruit.”
While most kids her age were playing tag, Rohatyn was not only training her eye for art, but also having discussions about art with aficionados and artists—including Andy Warhol, whose soup can art literally wallpapered the powder room of the Greenberg home. She graduated from Vassar College with a fine arts degree and did some graduate study at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. After working as a contemporary art curator and traveling the world to spearhead cutting-edge installation art projects, she’s made her home base New York where she owns Salon 94, an experimental art space for emerging and mid-career artists. The gallery has three locations, the third opening this month.
With that refined background, it came as a surprise to many in the art world that she would add reality TV personality to her résumé, even to Rohatyn herself. St. Louis pal and Bravo TV exec Andy Cohen initially tapped her to help behind the scenes on “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.” But after some consideration, Rohatyn agreed to act as a judge, joining auctioneer Simon de Pury, art critic Jerry Saltz, host and art connoisseur China Chow and art and culture editor Bill Powers on the panel. “I never envisioned myself on the show, or on TV for that matter,” Rohatyn says. “Bravo sent me DVDs of their other challenge shows, ‘Project Runway’ and ‘Top Chef,’ and I was hooked.”
Bravo’s formula for reality competition as demonstrated with “Project Runway” and “Top Chef” proved successful for “Work of Art,” which whittles down 14 artists down to one winner. Cohen has commented that Rohatyn and the other judges were not asked to be involved because he thought they would be instant TV stars necessarily, but because they were the best in their field. Viewers responded favorably with a steadily increasing audience each week and 1.48 million viewers tuning in for the show’s finale in August.
Bravo is currently casting for a second season of “Work of Art,” and if it gets picked up, Rohatyn will return to give her constructive critiques of a new set of budding artists. “At its core, the show is meant to entertain,” says Rohatyn. “It was not built for art world insiders, but rather for a broad audience—the artist in Delaware or the St. Louis family that visits the museum twice a year, and of course, all who love a challenge.
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn with fellow “Work of Art” judges.
Photo credit: Photos coutesy of Bravo