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DLS recap: Aby Rosen, Tom Sachs & William Georgis
Nov 15, 2013

After a full day of discussions on technology, fashion, art and culture, Design Leadership Summit (DLS) attendees headed uptown to Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for dinner and panel discussion with Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, who moderated a conversation between real estate tycoon Aby Rosen, artist Tom Sachs and architect William Georgis.

From left: Lisa Phillips, Aby Rosen, Tom Sachs and William Georgis
Rosen, co-founder of RFR Holding, a real estate investment and development firm based in New York with a focus on urban markets in the U.S. and Germany, is a patron of the arts and chair of the NY State Council on the arts as well as a trustee of the New Museum. Sachs is a contemporary artist who’s been working in New York for more than two decades, and Georgis is an architect, product and interior designer. Both Sachs and Georgis have collaborated with Rosen on projects.
On art versus design…

Rosen: “I’m not an artist. There’s one on my left, there’s an architect further to my left. I see my role as trying to bring art and architecture together and taking design that is available and trying to enhance the architecture. We use the art in order to change what the architecture gives us.”

Sachs: “I would just want to lead by saying that artists don’t have a corner on creativity. It doesn’t really matter what you do, it’s how you do it. So, half my job is making my art. The other half is bringing it to the world. I think that’s true in any profession. I know artists who are not very creative and I know lawyers who are very creative. I have to make a lot of effort to trust my gut feelings, not give in to pandering, indulgence and caprice. But it’s also important to do self-examination, to understand myself. I’d say another half—three halves now—is to understand and accept myself, because only then can I make a gut feeling decision. And that’s what any of us really do when it comes down to the tough decisions. Art’s hard that way because its not like design in that you don’t have the constraints of a client that prevents you from falling off into the existential abyss. Whether it’s art or designing a building or an interior, it’s very important to break everything down to three categories—what is it, who is it for and how do you tell the story? Those are three guidelines that I take when I’m trying to understand an artwork.”

Georgis: “I’ve been very blessed to work with art in many different ways. Often, I’m working for extraordinary collectors who asked me to help them make places for their collections, which is one way of working with art, but I’ve also been blessed to work with artists directly, and sometimes in interesting ways, collaborative ways, and in certain situations I will commission artists to create entire environments, which is very refreshing. I know Lisa has considered potentially the distinction between art and design and I would posit a conservative view and I would say I do see a distinction, I don’t want to say this but I will—often I think of design as born of necessity and function, and art is unfettered by that.”
On pushing the limits…
Rosen: “We’ve picked some of the artists to create work that is partly shocking, partly provocative and partly boring in order to get the reaction out of it at the Lever House. We have a camera that films them and we can see the reactions of the people who come by and look at something and that’s how we gauge the interest in it. The reaction is what I was looking for and what we were all looking for.

We transformed [Casa Lever] because we wanted to create a modern version of what the Four Seasons would be. We basically turned it into a backdrop for beautiful portraits by Warhol. It’s a snapshot of politicians and artists, so you can see people up on the walls who are also actually showing up to dine. So, I think you need to bring the art and architecture together because it gives you a product that is different and we all want to be different someway, somehow.”
Check back for more coverage of the DLS coming this week. Related articles: DLS Recap: Norman Foster and Paul Goldberger, DLS Recap: Innovations in technology and design, DLS Recap: Bunny Williams interviews Oscar de la Renta, DLS Recap: Icons of art and culture

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