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Four Pillars Of Management – By A Man Who Survived The Nazis

The Rosenberg art gallery at 21 rue de la Boetie was more like a sumptuous art gallery. (photo from the Musee Maillol exhibit with permission)

The Rosenberg art gallery at 21 rue de la Boetie was more like a sumptuous residence. (photo from the Musee Maillol exhibit with permission; photo credit; S. Karabell)

Without the eagle eye, good taste, and business acumen of gallerist Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959), we might not today be in a position to avail ourselves of the beauty of works by such post-Impressionist artists as Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and Marie Laurencin.

Rosenberg was more than an art dealer — he was friend, supporter and advocate for the new form of art that was shaking up the world in the 1920s. He is also a good example of how solid business pillars can hold you up even in disruptive times, for Rosenberg survived the Nazis.

A French Jew, Rosenberg’s professional efforts between the two world wars in Paris (active from 1910-1940), carryied on the work of his art dealer father before him, ultimately opening one of the most prestigious galleries in the French capital, at 21 rue de la Boetie, off the Champs Elysees. It quickly became the focal point for modern artists and their creations — not just in France but also in Europe and in the world.

The World Is Torn Asunder

World War II, the surrender of France in 1940 and the Nazi occupation changed all that. Not only was Rosenberg himself, as a Jew, in danger, his gallery proudly displayed what the fascist Nazis considered “degenerate art.” It wasn’t long  before Rosenberg’s gallery was raided, looted and trashed by the German occupying forces, then — as a final slap in the face – converted into the headquarters for the Nazi’s committee on “the Jewish Question.”

Rosenberg with a painting by Henri Matisse, one of the artists whose work he collected and promoted. (Photo from the Musee Maillol exhibit, with permission)

Rosenberg with a painting by Henri Matisse, one of the artists whose work he collected and promoted. (Photo from the Musee Maillol exhibit, with permission; photo credit: S. Karabell)

Rosenberg fled to the United States, a country he had visited several times previously as a successful and influential art dealer, leaving behind much of his collected works of art. His flight was instrumental in shifting the locus of the art world from Paris to New York.

Those who want to know more of Rosenberg’s story can read the book — 21 rue de la, published by Editions Grasset & Fasquelle in 2012 — written by his granddaughter, journalist Anne Sinclair (former wife of French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn), who was born in New York. Or visit the exposition of the same name at the Musee Maillot in Paris until July 23.

Aside from the history and the 69 pieces of art on display — testimony to Rosenberg’s good taste and discerning eye — what is impressive about the exhibit is the business principles it shares from this leader in the business of art. They are Rosenberg’s own, oft-stated pillars, and they apply to just about any business you can think of. As they served Rosenberg well during the war, we can safely assume these pillars can withstand the shock of change and disruption.

The Four Principles 

1. You can bet on quality and value. Rosenberg knew good stuff when he saw it and he persevered in buying it and promoting it. He knew the difference between taking a chance on something and being foolhardy.
2. Go where the money is. Rosenberg understood that there was a wealthy audience in the US with disposable income. Desire for something does not always accompany the ability to purchase it.
3. Use every new promotional technique possible. Rosenberg used the then-new tactics of advertising, running continuing exhibitions in different places, traveling further afield than others in the same business. He understood your outreach should be as innovative and cutting edge as what you’re selling.
4. Manage scrupulously, whether it’s talent, the financial ledgers or your stock. Rosenberg’s detailed notes of the stock of artworks he had on hand were — and still are — instrumental in recovering some of those works after the war — though a large portion of his notes were destroyed in the Nazi looting of his premises. The value of taking stock was a major component of his success.

It is an interesting mixture of belief in value and risk, the established and the avant-garde, as applicable in today’s uncertain days of change as it was during the devastation of World War II.

Journalist-aiuthor Anne Sinclair as a child, painted by Marie Laurencin, one of the artists whose work was supported be her grandfather, galleries Paul Rosenberg. (Photo with permission from Musee Maillol exhibition)

Journalist-aiuthor Anne Sinclair as a child, painted by Marie Laurencin, one of the artists whose work was supported be her grandfather, galleries Paul Rosenberg. (Photo with permission from Musee Maillol exhibition; photo credit: S. Karabell)

More information about the exhibit and the Musee Maillol can be found here.

Editor’s Note: This Article originally appeared on Forbes and is featured here with Author permission.

Shellie Karabellhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/shelliekarabell/#3e74236f9c62
Shellie Karabell has spent more than 40 years in international broadcast journalism, including executive news and management positions in her native USA, Europe, the USSR/Russia and the Middle East for ABC News/WTN, Dow Jones Broadcast, PBS, AP Broadcast and CNBC, responsible for news coverage, bureau management, and budgets of several million dollars. She has specialized in business news since 1982, covering hundreds of tier-one international companies and executives. As a TV correspondent in Europe, her coverage included the release of the American hostages from Iran in 1981; the Pan Am 103 crash in Lockerbie, Scotland,1988; the civil war in Lebanon in 1983; the civil war in Yugoslavia in 1991-92, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. She is a recognized expert on Russia, having started her coverage there in 1986 (including interviewing Boris Yeltsin and Edvard Shevardnadze) and continuing to the present day, and living/working in Moscow from 1996-1998 for ABC-WTN. Before moving to Europe in 1983, she was a chief news editor and field reporter for ABC Radio Network News in New York, and the business anchor for Satellite News Channel. From 2009-2013 she was Director of Media Relations and Editor-in-Chief of INSEAD Knowledge, the business school's online business magazine. Born in Philadelphia, PA, she has a BA in English from Pennsylvania State University and masters work in political science (Penn State) & Russian History (NYU) and lives in Paris.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great story. Great principles and foundations to abide by. I would only add that we have to pass through the pillars to find new and dynamic change. Love a good story and it is always amazing the resourcefulness of the human spirit.

  2. I love history and reading stories of how people overcome tragic circumstances and turn them into triumph. The only thing lacking in these 4 pillars is how employees and leaders factor into the successes with the organizations.

  3. You often find that there is all of these pillars, checklists, and systems to do things and to do them well. The problem is that you can find yourself at times distracted so you forget to use these pillars, checklists, and systems.

    You must always remember that you have the tools you have. That is what separates success from failure — the ability to remember.

  4. What an inspirational article Shellie! This really drives it home: ‘As they served Rosenberg well during the war, we can safely assume these pillars can withstand the shock of change and disruption’ (Karabell, 2017).

    Excellent, most excellent and thank you dearly for sharing!

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