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The New Palette of Gansevoort

The New Palette of Gansevoort

New York Times 1/11/2007

By Eric Wilson

RUTH RO, an artist whose studio overlooks the intersection of Little West 12th Street and Washington Street, sees two ways to look at the state of the meatpacking district. You can bemoan the luxury whitewashing of the neighborhood’s once gritty character (and its sanguinary sidewalks), or you can view the change as a rebirth, bringing life to streets that once belonged to carcasses.

“There are positives to the development,” Ms. Ro said. “You have newcomers who are bringing a different kind of life to the area.”

For the last six months, Ms. Ro has studied the familiar faces of the neighborhood to create a series of portraits of those responsible for its transition, including the designer Diane Von Furstenberg, the hotelier André Balazs, the retailer Jeffrey Kalinsky, the restaurateurs Keith McNally and Florent Morellet and the meatpackers at J. T. Jobbagy, one of the few such businesses remaining there. Fittingly, they will be displayed beginning next week at a new fashion store: Theory, which opened in November at 38 Gansevoort Street.

Among Ms. Ro’s subjects, painted in a style that reduces shape and shadow to tonal outlines, is Andrew Rosen, the chief executive of the American division of Theory and a fashion kingpin with investments in a range of brands: Rag & Bone, Alice + Olivia, Kiki de Montparnasse and Gryphon. Mr. Rosen, who faced some opposition during the construction of the building and store, said the show is emblematic of his embrace of his new neighbors.

The store displays clothes on racks that hang from the ceiling, like those once used for cattle, and includes space to promote local interests, like the restoration of the High Line.

“The whole building is reminiscent of the meatpacking district,” Mr. Rosen said. “The idea was to try to create an environment where we work better, not some huge architectural statement.”

Mr. Rosen also invited employees to appoint their offices with an image of an idol of their choice, and not necessarily one from the block. Visible throughout the building are the faces of the Dalai Lama, Bianca Jagger, Masaharu Morimoto, a stressed-out Golda Meir (in the office of the chief financial officer) and, in the office of Mr. Rosen, one of Marlon Brando, as the Godfather.

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