The Art and the Deal

Photo: Jeff Mermelstein

Hatchets drawn, oxygen tanks strapped to their backs, four firemen were first on the scene at artist-provocateur Damien Hirst’s opening night in the lobby at Lever House. Aby Rosen, who has owned the office building since 1998, would soon emerge, cocktail in hand, wearing a snazzy velvet Nehru jacket. A British band was rehearsing the Sex Pistols and the Clash on the third-floor terrace, effectively the private patio of Rosen’s own office, wallpapered with Warhols and facing the iconic Seagram Building across the street—which Rosen owns, too. On this chilly evening, Lever House, the landmark modernist masterpiece Rosen had restored to a youthful glow, was lit up and speakered for sound like an eighties disco.

The firefighters trooped upstairs as guests arrived and gaped at Hirst’s surreal schoolroomlike installation in the Lever lobby, its “students” several rows of butcher-shop sheep carcasses in formaldehyde fish tanks. As stated in the handout, this full-floor meat-locker collage commissioned especially for Lever House had something to do with contradictory states of being. The archaeology of lost desires. It made absurd sense that the barbecued-sparerib buffet waiting upstairs had set off the smoke alarm.

Twelve years ago, Rosen’s real-estate company, RFR Holding, had but two employees. But now the enterprising Frankfurt émigré and his partner, Michael Fuchs, controlled approximately 7.5 million square feet of prime office space in Manhattan and 1.5 million square feet of retail space in Manhattan, South Beach, and Las Vegas, not to mention those 2,500 luxury residential apartments here in town and hotels to come in Miami and Palm Beach. Rosen, who’s married to society princess Samantha Boardman, is the wallet behind Ian Schrager and such bankably swank starchitect-designed condos as 40 Bond, 50 Gramercy Park North, and the Gramercy Park Hotel.

Rosen, who may be recognized by his jolly jowls and satisfied smile, theatrically topped off by arrogant eyebrows and silver composer hair, has also been very conspicuously stuffing cash into a massive contemporary-art collection, with Lever House acting as his own personal Frick. Hirst’s Virgin Mother is a 35-foot-tall bronze giantess stalking Lever’s courtyard like a Sinbad-movie monster, skin ghoulishly peeled back to expose her pregnancy in surgical detail. Rosen had it swung into place with a crane. “A crazy rock-and-roll thing to do,” says art dealer Tony Shafrazi. “With Aby, there’s no sense of timidity at all. He wants to blast it to completion—and take it beyond.”

At the party, some of Rosen’s fellow volume buyers of the contemporary-art bubble, the nine or so men who had been hoarding hundreds of Warhols and Hirsts, were checking out the supersize medicine chests arrayed around the perimeter (medicine chests being to Hirst what apples were to Magritte). So, too, were Ron Perelman, Heather Graham, Salman Rushdie, Uma Thurman, and S.I. Newhouse—rolled up inside a top-buttoned beige trench coat like some bashful canapé—on hand to witness Rosen’s Medici moment. Tony Shafrazi stood at the head of the class, an electroshock-haired professor attempting to explain all to Owen Wilson and the rest of the hipsterati. But the glass box that is Lever House was effectively the biggest Hirst vitrine of all, one aiming to seal Aby Rosen’s reputation in this town as the proverbial man of Wealth and, perhaps even more important, Taste.

Rosen’s taste had been in question ever since he’d engaged Lord Norman Foster to grow an ultramodern apartment building atop the landmark Parke-Bernet building directly across the street from the Carlyle Hotel. The Upper East Side predictably went bananas over Rosen’s Siamese-twin tower, carrying on as if Aby the Hun were on the verge of sacking Madison Avenue.

Norman Foster is perhaps the world’s foremost surgeon for landmark-building implants; witness the Hearst Corporation’s stunningly engorged headquarters in midtown. (“It should have been even taller—it would have looked even better,” Rosen says of the Hearst tower.) His proposed building was fashionably green, powered by soybean biofuel, solar-heated water thrumming through pipes concealed inside the double-skinned walls. The elliptical residences with superb views of Central Park were positively anorectic, 18- and 24-story shafts planted in a new roof garden and casting negligible shadows—even if they vaguely resembled two office towers here on vacation from Miami.

At a hearing, Lord Foster presented Aby Rosen’s vision and pronounced it “sculptural.” A work of art. Though this was a historic district, the Foster team observed that the area wasn’t ever intended to be “preserved in aspic,” imagery that seemed to baffle this audience—as did repeated references to the Upper East Side’s “tradition of radicalism” and the proposed public art gallery on the lower floors pretentiously referred to as a Kunsthalle.

Like many younger Upper East Side residents, Rosen publicly lamented the lack of some sophisticated nocturnal street life. (“He should go out more,” counters Peg Breen, the Landmarks Conservancy’s Jackie O.–as–a–redhead president.) Says Adam Lindemann, telecom heir, Upper East Side resident of almost 46 years, contemporary-art collector, and Rosen backbencher, the debate “was a real generational thing. It’s very unfortunate that the 60-plus crowd will make us their prisoners until they pass.”

From left: 40 Bond; the Seagram Building.Photo: Courtesy of C. Iwan Baan/40 Bond, Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times/Redux

Letters spilled forth, the brouhaha pitting mother (society dame Emily Frick) against son (sculptor Richard DuPont). Gallery owners generally rallied behind Rosen, but there were exceptions: Dealer and Fifth Avenue dweller Richard Feigen, who objected to the towers’ being cast as a phony art-world venture: “Aby is a key member of the contemporary-art-market-bubble contingent,” Feigen explained.

The clouds parted, and down came a thunderbolt from the desk of Tom Wolfe. His New York Times op-ed sprayed graffiti all over Rosen’s “Mondo Condo glass box” (which would be intolerably visible from Wolfe’s own fourteenth-floor East 79th Street parlor). Months later, spotted at the Upper East Side gym where he faithfully works out at age 77, creaking into full scissor-splits on the floor, Wolfe was still sniggering at the way His Lordship, Norman Foster, had banged on about the “dialogue” between 980 Madison and the Carlyle, the proposed hybrid building’s “horizontality” and “verticality.”

Wolfe was curious: Was Aby wearing blue jeans when I met him? He seemed “a new species of businessman,” a Master-of-the-Universe subphylum Wolfe clearly detested.

Some intuited more nefarious motives. “What Wolfe wrote was almost, like, anti-Semitic,” says Stellan Holm, a gallery-owner friend of Rosen’s. (“What?!,” sputters Wolfe, whose wife is Jewish. “That comment is totally out to lunch, falling off the platter, out of its tree.”) At a hearing earlier, Rosen’s good friend Jeff Koons talked about a kind of “segregation, discrimination taking place … ‘This is old money, you’re not welcome here’.” As if to put everyone on notice, Lindemann began his own testimony, “Although my family didn’t come here on the Mayflower … ”

Growing up Jewish in Frankfurt after the war had hardened him, Rosen admitted to the New York Times. It’s not something he cries into his beer over, but the other kids would say, “They forgot to gas your father.”

“So I have zero fear,” Rosen went on. “Fear is not something I have.” To Vogue, he added, “I looked for the confrontation.”

The commission urged him to reconsider the number of floors, think small—in the single-digit range. One year later, the Upper East Side has yet to hear back from Aby Rosen.

The archaeology of Aby Rosen’s own lost desires begins in Frankfurt, more precisely known as Frankfurt am Main, after the river running through it, and nicknamed Mainhattan. The serrated cityscape—unique in Europe, where every other metropolis tends to bunch its castles in the air—feels big-time. But Frankfurt’s architectural touchstone is older: the I.G. Farben Building, a sprawling, orangey-marble hangnail in the very center of the Westend, the historically Jewish neighborhood where Aby Rosen grew up. Before the war, this was the largest, most modern office building in Europe, occupied by the onetime No. 1 chemical company in the world, which manufactured Zyklon B. Repurposed as American Army headquarters, this is where postwar children came on their bicycles to charm change out of soldiers for candy out of the American vending machines—in this town, the Americans were the source of everything remotely exotic.

Aby’s father, Isak, had been born in Lodz, Poland, the son of a Jewish teacher who was a very pious man. Herded into the ghetto, Isak and his brothers were soon orphaned, and after 1944’s liquidation they survived a series of concentration camps, including Auschwitz. (Two half-sisters didn’t make it.) Isak then found refuge with a half-brother in Toronto as a cook, an upholsterer, and then a stationery-store proprietor. He returned from a trip to Belgium engaged to Aby’s mother, Anni, an art student who’d hidden during the war under the floor of a farmhouse.

The family headed back to Germany, where there were rumblings of opportunity and most everyone in the Rosens’ insular community was a Polish, Yiddish-speaking camp survivor. Frankfurt was post-partition Germany’s Boomburg, but there was a housing and office deficit, especially since its core had been bombed to bits. The Rosens were one of several Polish Jewish families with little or no prior experience in the field who were dealt into the high-risk property game by the banks, who by the sixties were frantically throwing money at anyone who would take it. Like many other Jewish landlords in town, Aby’s father and uncle Charlie (so nicknamed by his G.I. buddies) were accused of sharp-elbowed landlord tactics, killing the heat in partially occupied buildings, vandalizing empty apartments in what became known as “the Wild Westend.” In 1975, the local paper reported that his father and uncle had scuffled with a law student who finished up in a heap at the bottom of the marble stairs in one Rosen building with a concussion. Posters went up around town caricaturing the Spekulanten—as the real-estate developers were now known—a word uttered through clenched teeth. Banners marching down Frankfurt’s streets howled about the SPEKULANTEN SCHWEINE—Speculator Pigs. It was a shock when young Aby heard his father’s name being shouted by the throng.

From left: Rosen with Jeff Koons; Rosen with Damien Hirst.Photo: Patrick McMullan

The outcry, with its shrill echoes of anti-Semitism, helped to thwart the brothers’ ambitions. They came to own but a handful of short-stature buildings. Both Aby and his partner Michael were born in 1960, only sons and friends since nursery school; Michael Fuch’s father, Don, was also a Frankfurt real-estate man, from Czortków, hidden during the war by a Christian family.

Aby’s Uncle Charlie had matured into an elderly playboy who bought himself a big spiffy house close by the American base and a pad in Cannes. Aby, now a Frankfurt University law student, was Charlie’s protégé. “Aby was always the cool guy around,” says Frankfurt real-estate developer Robert Faktor, who has known Aby Rosen since he was 9. “He always knew the best restaurants, the best clubs, the best vacation rentals.”

Rosen showed up in the States in 1987, beyond bullish (“Aby’s always bullish; that’s part of his charm,” says old friend André Balazs). Broker Susan Penzer remembers showing Rosen his first apartment, on lower Broadway. Its owner, a young music producer, had just died in a car crash. His girlfriend, still living there with their newborn child, now needed to rent the apartment, but the flaky board was in no hurry to convene and would quite probably oppose it. “Aby wanted to get in there right away,” says Penzer. Suddenly, Rosen and the girlfriend formed an alliance, and they moved in together. “I remember Aby sitting in my conference room and telling me he was going to be the most successful real-estate developer in New York. It was just the kind of aggression that got him where he is today,” says Penzer.

Employed at Jones Lang Wootton, Rosen proved a whiz at selling properties to German investors. The gray already salting his hair didn’t hurt. And at the clubs downtown, Rosen and Fuchs were immediately part of the party, the real money behind M.K., the supper club. Artists were nightlife’s newest VIPs: Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Kenny Scharf and Francesco Clemente were hired to funk up the Palladium. M.K. threw some Schnabels on its walls.

RFR was founded in 1991, when the market was doubled over in pain. Accessing funds from German backers, Aby slowly assembled a formidable portfolio of office buildings here in town, says Jones Lang alumnus Woody Heller. RFR would rehab buildings with latent charm and sometimes unload them, all the while upgrading to trophy properties with more-prized addresses.

In 1993, the duo united with Trevor Davis, a builder who grew up quietly Jewish, an outsider in Johannesburg, before taking an architecture and engineering degree from MIT and marrying American. Sean Connery–ish, an intimidating six-foot-four in jeans, Davis paraded his passions for Panerai watches, fine wines, and hunting rhinoceros on horseback.

Renamed RFR Davis, the firm saw a chance to corner the market for brand-new apartments on the East Side. Over the next several years, Rosen and Fuchs would hunt up the money while construction supervisor Davis would have perhaps fourteen residential projects going at once, several anchoring dowdy corners of First Avenue. Rosen, back then the company suit (though rarely one to throw on a tie), was its public face. Soft-spoken Fuchs ran the numbers backstage. Davis split with RFR just before an ongoing rico lawsuit flagged niggling cracks in workmanship that had caused problems at the most luxe building RFR Davis had attempted to date, the Empire.

RFR Davis was earlier than other developers to the epiphany that big-name architects could be used to market duplexes much as they’d been used to hype new office buildings. “It doesn’t cost that much more to hire a famous architect than an unknown one,” Rosen would brag, “since a lot of the work is delegated.” Some of his buildings’ best-selling authors included Costas Kondylis (Eastbridge Landing), Robert A.M. Stern (the Seville), and Michael Graves for 425 Fifth and the Impala, from the doorway of which leaps an anatomically correct copper buck. The rap on Rosen has always been that he’s heavily leveraged and owns only minority pieces in his joint-venture plays. But that’s how the game is played; you’re leveraged until you’re less leveraged. In one SEC filing, Rosen and Fuchs reported that as of September 30, 2004, they had a combined net worth in excess of $400 million and a combined liquidity of $15 million.

Rosen’s art holdings grew apace with his real estate. Looking over his blue-chip collection of 80 Warhols (and counting), the naughty Richard Prince nurse, the Basquiats, the Christopher Wools, the Harings, the Koonses, the Bacon, people wonder as they did with Charles Saatchi whether it’s Rosen or the company that owns this vast trove. (Through a spokeswoman, Rosen declined to comment.)

A rendering of 980 Madison.

Once again, his timing would appear to be impeccable in this era when art has turned out to be a better investment than stocks and a ticket to New York’s grooviest party. “It’s like having a Rolls in the garage,” explains a friend of several years. “I don’t think it’s necessarily sophistication about art with Aby. I think it’s sophistication about understanding what gives you the status.” He’s now on the board of the New Museum, and his parties—at the Lever clubhouse and its chic downstairs restaurant, the tented dinners in the Seagram plaza for museums and artists like John Chamberlain (or Richard Chamberlain, as Aby tends to slip and call him)—buy a lot of goodwill. The artists enjoy him. After dinner one night at Lever House, George Condo and Tom Friedman got to doodling on a Con Ed barrier outside the restaurant; the next day Rosen called and asked that it be removed for his collection. Says Condo, “Someday, he’ll probably be the mayor.”

Rosen is essentially that at the Core Club, a members-only hangout of estimable design downstairs in a building he developed on East 55th Street. The idea was to do a strictly meritocratic “urban country club.” Moneymen around town remember the gorgeous babe with a tattooed tailbone who turned up at their offices to give an elaborate easel presentation to potential members (mainly bankers in the final tally, say those who go there, instead of the Michael’s crowd Rosen had hoped for). Gallery owners were eventually offered a discount off the $50,000 initiation fee and $12,000 annual dues.

“With Aby, there’s no sense of timidity,” says Tony Shafrazi. “He wants to blast it to completion—and take it beyond.”

Panels on art-buying educate members aspiring to a certain statusphere. Rosen and his chief art adviser (and wingman) Alberto “Tico” Mugrabi are said to park art at the club they are considering selling; members laugh about the turnover after every auction season.

Rosen is a guy who made a lot of money, and now he’s playing very hard. He likes to say that he belongs on the Forbes 400 list. The same week he won the Seagram Building, he bought 90 Fifth Avenue and leased it to the Forbes corporation, installing a flashy RFR Realty sign in the lobby.

Rosen was leading his wife, Samantha, by the hand through the roil of the Guggenheim International Gala at Pier 40. Her auburn hair loosed upon her shoulders, she was eight months pregnant with their second child, Vivian (their son, Alexander, is now 2). She looked to be in storybook love.

“People say, how could she end up with Aby?” reports Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art. Somehow, they imagine she would have gone for a character out of a John P. Marquand novel, Gund explains, before praising Rosen as “a diamond in the rough, ebullient and outgoing.” Before Aby, Samantha dated Aon-insurance heir Todd Meister, Condé Nast editorial director James Truman, and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (whom for a long time Rosen would only refer to as “that editor”).

It was in 2000—the year he turned 40—that Aby asked for a divorce from his first wife, which finally went through in 2004. “Between wives, Aby was a bit wild,” says one social acquaintance, remembering late parties at the Southampton house, where he was now wearing long, Chinese-y tunics.

Rosen was apparently out to date a Certain Type of Girl. He started appearing at Cipriani uptown and down. He dated Gina Gershon. He made a play for Lulu de Kwiatkowski. Samantha’s sister Serena has told friends she turned Aby down. But now Aby calls Samantha—brainy, shy, prim and proper—his soul mate. A graduate of Harvard and Cornell medical school, Samantha worked 24-hour shifts in her residency, considered taking over for Dr. Atkins until his sudden death after a fall, before deciding on psychiatry. “There’s an awkwardness to her that’s almost endearing,” says a friend. “She’s not slick and not a traditional socialite party girl.”

“He seems very egoless with her,” says artist Christopher Brooks, whose wife, Amanda, knows Samantha from Palm Beach. “When they are together, he seems quite happy to play the supporting role.” Some of her friends find him a bit slow to engage. “It’s like bringing a lion into a living room; it’s not going to make him act like a dog,” says one. But at least he doesn’t pander. He did get her to convert. He did escort Samantha to the International Antiques Show at the Armory, wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

It’s said that Samantha’s parents, Pauline, a banking heiress, and D. Dixon, a hedge-fund manager raised in Philadelphia, were less than enthusiastic about her choice. Pauline was heard wondering aloud how she would give Samantha a wedding. Aby took care of that with a small, midweek ceremony in June 2005 under a flowery chuppah on the rooftop terrace of the limestone townhouse on East 80th Street that he fixed up as part of his rental agreement with the consulate of Niger. Rosen likes to tell people Imelda Marcos once lived there; like the Castro shirts he sometimes wears and the shark tank he used to keep in his kitchen, it fits his rogue image of himself.

Aby Rosen and his wife, Samantha Boardman, at the Guggenheim Museum International Gala last November.Photo: Jeff Mermelstein for New York Magazine

Months later came the extravagant bash under a tent at the Seagram Building with 40 Russian violinists, industrial-size drums of Petrossian caviar, and Kobe burgers for all.

Friend Sante D’Orazio insists there’s no pretense. “He couldn’t care less if you have a bigger yacht. All he knows is he’s got a yacht. He’s fun.” He lives life to its fullest, says everyone who knows him. He enjoys himself more than most. “I remember him telling me one time that pot is the upper-class drug,” says one person who knows him. “To put a status on pot smoking? That’s the ultimate Aby.”

To others, he’s obnoxious, he’s brusque, always calculating whether someone he meets can be useful. “A man of incredibly annoying and particular opinions, very self-assured, aggressive, and broaching no doubts whatsoever about anything,” says one business acquaintance. “A show-off,” says another longtime associate. “He’ll always tell you the great price he got on something. His stuff is always better—and he paid less for it.”

The houses are well-appointed warehouses for cool stuff and cool guests; in Manhattan, cigarettes for the taking, three bars, the finest forties French furniture, Warhol’s “piss paintings” over the marital bed. (Rosen was late to the early, more valuable Warhols but has been reasonably early to the late, up-and-coming Warhols.)

In the library are pillows upholstered in skunk and croc, geodes on the shelf, a Pliosaurus skeleton swooping through the air—memories of the library at M.K. “The kids’ rooms are ridiculous,” says someone who’s been, “like, Basquiats on the wall next to a Sopranos pinball machine.” The boys—Gaby, 13, and Charlie, 11—from his previous marriage sleep over twice a week, “and he has dinner with them. He’s not like, ‘I’m off with Jeff Koons tonight,’ ” says a family friend.

In Southampton, neighbors Calvin Klein and Schrager stop through his converted white carriage house in the dunes, with a half-pipe on the side for skateboarding and cars with keys for the use of houseguests. More recently, Rosen bought a louvered St. Barts villa he likes to say is “the biggest house on the island” for reportedly $36 million, after the wife of French Connection CEO Stephen Marks split with his wife and a rare fabulous house was up for grabs. “On vacation he does it up,” says D’Orazio. “Champagne for everyone because life’s a bitch and then you die.”

Whenever Rosen is interested in something, says Koons, summarizing his friend’s Weltanschauung, “he’s going to absorb it.”

It was after seven here at the Sotheby’s fall contemporary-art evening auction, and Rosen had just lost a stainless-steel Jeff Koons caboose to some bidder on the phone more willing to part with $1.4 million than he. On one side, he had his wife, Samantha. On the other sat his son Charlie, lately accompanying him to the auctions and occasionally bidding, which had some onlookers getting as agitated as they did when Charlie got written up in The Wall Street Journal as having his own art collection. Aby was wearing one of those wattle-minimizing paper-airplane- collar oxford shirts, with the buttons undone down his clavicle. Little Charlie had roughly the same look going on.

A number of the volume buyers—the Warhol hoarders—were in attendance: dealer Larry Gagosian, paper magnate Peter Brant, and Jose Mugrabi, the Israel-born Colombian textile merchant. With all these friends collecting the same thing—the Princes, the Basquiats, the Warhols, the Koonses—there are whispers of collusion among this group the art world has nicknamed “the Cartel.” The idea is that you buy 20 or 30 artworks by, say, Richard Prince, put two or three of them up at auction, and you and your pals bid them up. At every contemporary-art auction now, there’s a bump and the prices reset.

Most recently, Rosen has taken a big position in George Condo, an eighties artist who never made it as big as Salle or Schnabel but who’s suddenly got the heat behind him.

“Some of those guys own as many as 100 pieces of Condo,” says Sante D’Orazio. Not incidentally, this is classic commodities trading, which isn’t surprising given their respective backgrounds. Rosen once cornered the market for new apartments on the Upper East Side. Koons used to support himself as a commodities broker. Peter Brant has spent his career selling paper. And of course, Gagosian himself, the best pusher in town, son of a stockbroker, who’s known to cold-call moguls and say, “My name is Larry Gagosian, and I’d like to sell you some art.”

“There are these people who have this idealistic sense that the art market is not a market because it’s art!” says Adam Lindemann, another volume buyer, patiently explaining that “there is no Aby Rosen or Larry Gagosian who can really control the scope and international nature of the market.” At Sotheby’s this very evening, Lindemann was getting rid of a magenta Hanging Heart that he got from Koons’s dealer, Gagosian, and had reportedly never even bothered to uncrate. Its sale, for $23.5 million, set a record for the highest price ever paid at auction for the artist. (Its buyer? Larry Gagosian!)

The evening would also set the all-time total sales record at Sotheby’s, where Rosen not only owned the building but was being sued by his auction-house tenant for not allowing Sotheby’s to buy its own building back at a favorable price per some prior agreement (the parties settled in January, with Sotheby’s now getting a break on the price Rosen was asking). But here he was, larking around with the boys in the stalls, Brant and Tony Shafrazi, all of them maniacally chewing gum.

In the auction room, Rosen is considered a value investor who seldom strays over a few million, as he did at Christie’s in the fall, losing out on a $6.5 million Jean-Michel Basquiat Sugar Ray Robinson. But in real estate, “if Aby wants something, he doesn’t want to come in second,” says developer Steve Witkoff, who got aced from the Lever House deal. Rosen’s money is from German investment funds. German lenders are known to accept a much lower rate of return on their loans; because Rosen’s money costs him less, he has more of it to play with. “He’ll get the property, even if it means paying 5 percent more than the next guy,” says Cushman & Wakefield executive director Richard Baxter, “because he’ll have a vision for it. He’s selling units at 40 Bond for a higher price per square foot than any other developer’s charging right now, and he can do it because there’s a concept.”

There is the occasional miscalculation: RFR and Ian Schrager had the One Madison Avenue clock tower under contract when staggering numbers came in for the cost of converting it into condominiums. “Aby and Ian started to freak out and couldn’t pull off the deal,” says a source close to the process. Over on East 55th Street, the addition of the hedge-fund-manager-stocked Core Club downstairs didn’t much help sales upstairs.

The bottom line is brutally enforced. Architect Philip Johnson helped build the Seagram Building and maintained offices there. But when his lease came up, RFR wanted to hike the nonagenarian’s reduced rent to market rate. Johnson, who was still coming into work every morning at 9:30, noiselessly packed his things.

The Guggenheim Gala now flickering to an end, a golf cart ferried Aby and Samantha Rosen back to their car down an allée of potted trees with pretend oranges. Manhattan’s skyline glistened before them, more and more of it built by Rosen. Coming online soon in New York are 610 Lexington, a Norman Foster obelisk behind the Seagram Building housing a Shangri-La hotel and condos. Also: One Jackson Square, like 610 Lex, another joint venture, this condo undulating down Greenwich Avenue and a potential neighborhood-transformer like the Time Warner Center with its mall downstairs; and a ten-story condo job set for West Broadway, a martini-olive toss away from Downtown Cipriani.

Local deals have slowed for everyone in this sludgy market, but Rosen has hotels planned for Tel Aviv, where he’s now tight with Mayor Ron Huldai, another son of a Polish Jew from Lodz. Last spring, RFR spent $186 million on a portfolio of German office buildings, $578 million on Frankfurt’s Eurotower, the 39-story skyscraper, finally giving the Rosen family a major piece of the Frankfurt skyline.

The portfolio of iconic buildings bought and now being built—the vanloads of contemporary canvases and sculpture—have crowned the controversialist developer with a halogen halo of Cool. Here in New York, he’d learned that Taste was a commodity like any other, and as he’d be the first to tell you, he’d gotten a great price on it.

The Art and the Deal