Zen Interview Master Aby Rosen Commissions Condo for Condos

aby rosen at work.jpgPeople who bandy about the term “media training” should clip and laminate the full salmon-hued page that the New York Observer recently devoted to a sit-down with real estate mogul and art collector Aby Rosen, whose RFR Holding company owns such properties as Lever House and the Seagram Building. In the face of some tough questions by the Observer‘s indefatigable reporter Max Abelson, Rosen exhibited a Zen-like calm, offering matter-of-fact musings on even such potentially incendiary topics as Tom Wolfe’s ad hominem argument against his project at 980 Madison (“It had a nasty undertone that I didn’t care much for.”) and the decor of his children’s bedrooms (“Sure, there are Basquiats. The kids chose them.”). His greatest regret? “I should have been more aggressive when I pursued the Chrysler Building.”

condo 2008.jpgWe asked Abelson about the interview, which took place at the sales center of RFR’s high-end condo development at 350 West Broadway, where Rosen commissioned a George Condo portrait (“Smiling Woman with Pearls” (2008), pictured at right) for the lobby. Abelson describes his subject as “much more amiable than many of the real estate developers I’ve interviewed—a lot of them can be buttoned-down and un-arty, but he obviously enjoys his life.”

In the published interview, Rosen seems to demur from directly answering the question as to when art becomes “just a sales gimmick,” but Abelson gives us a snippet that didn’t make it into print. “One thing [Rosen] said is that a Warhol or Basquiat can’t successfully promote a product if the product isn’t also inherently good. I thought that was interesting,” says Abelson. “Personally, I would rather see a beautiful painting in a museum than in the lobby of a luxury condo, but then again I’d rather a condo building be made beautifully (and decorated with beautiful art) than be drab and boring.” As for the condos’ Condo, Abelson describes it as “huge, bright, [and] sort of Picasso-like.”