When the President of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, learned of Alex J. Rosenberg’s death, he tweeted: “A light of genuine love for Cuba has shone in New York, where collector and professor Alex Rosenberg, on his generous publicity work Cuban Art owes so much, passed away at the age of 103.”
Activism and art were the twin passions of Mr. Rosenberg, the gregarious New York appraiser and art dealer who was still working full-time when he died of a heart attack at home in Manhattan on Friday. Since 1978 he had a house in Southampton.
Cuba welcomed Mr. Rosenberg’s support, invited him to visit, teach and meet Fidel Castro, and awarded him its Order of Culture in 1995.
He initiated a successful lawsuit against the United States government in 1988 through the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee of New York on behalf of 17 art collectors, galleries, artists, art scholars and the New York-based Center for Cuban Studies that violated First Amendment rights allowed the import of art from Cuba, although the import of Cuban goods for trade was otherwise restricted. By 1991, the group acquired the right to purchase and import Cuban paintings and drawings without restrictions. This allowed US galleries and dealers to exhibit and sell the works of Cuban artists.
Mr. Rosenberg was also interested in Salvador Dali, for whose work he eventually became the authority on determining authenticity and founded the Salvador Dali Research Center in 2006. He first came into contact with Dali in 1968 when he was funding a portfolio of his prints. Realizing he had to step in to protect his investment, he went to Dali in Spain to ask him to proofread the artwork and then to Paris to oversee the printing. It was the beginning of a friendship.
Spurred on by his success with Dali, in 1969 he began publishing artist prints under the name Transworld Art, which he continued and later exhibited in his gallery. Among the many artists he published were Dali, Alexander Calder, Mark Tobey, Sonia Delaunay, Matta, George Segal, Romare Bearden, Marisol, Rufino Tamayo, Larry Rivers, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner and Henry Moore, from whom he the latter represented in his gallery.
Mr. Rosenberg was proud to have served first as an expert witness against the IRS and then as a representative of the IRS in high quality art appraisal proceedings.
However, perhaps what concerned him most was his history of political activism and participation in civic activities. During the civil rights movement, he joined SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He adopted and supported an underfunded Black Freedom School in Starkville, Miss., to which he traveled in 1962 with two friends and their teenage son.
For many years he was Vice President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He was the Democratic District Chairman for Assembly District 67 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side from 1964 to 1974 and was elected a New York delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where he objected when police tried to get Eugene McCarthy supporters off the ground to throw , claimed that they lacked credentials. He recalled being questioned by police and guards at the Congress Hall, some of whom were captured on national television, as described by NBC news anchor John Chancellor.
In Israel, Mr. Rosenberg has been active in civil society activities; He served on the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s International Board of Governors and became one of three foreign trustees. Among his many print portfolios, he published prints by Dali and Reuven Rubin in 1973 to commemorate Israel’s 25th anniversary.
Alex J. Rosenberg was born on May 25, 1919 in Brooklyn to Israel Rosenberg, who turned a laundry into a successful linen delivery business, and Lena Zar Rosenberg. He was proud that his mother had been a socialist, “a lover of art and literature, a patron of young writers, a radical, and an early agnostic.” He recalled that when he was only 8 years old, his mother was so upset at the 1927 execution of Sacco and Vanzetti for a crime they had not committed that she forced him to “stand online for hours, to see her ashes in Stuyvesant Hall on Second Avenue in New York.” He recounted that when he was four years old, his mother let him accompany him to the Metropolitan Museum and that he “hated it, but somehow it stayed with me and shaped my life Life”.
Mr. Rosenberg studied at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, and then transferred to the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. He also took courses at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2003 he received his Doctor of Science in Art from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana for his book The Art, Science and Business of Appraising. In 1989 he received an honorary doctorate from Hofstra University, where he had organized a major exhibition of Henry Moore’s work.
He married Dorothy Hardy in 1941, a marriage that ended in divorce after many years. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served as a pilot in World War II, becoming a second lieutenant. In order to support his family, he worked in and founded various companies. The sale of one of these, Anserphone, enabled him to enter the art business.
Mr. Rosenberg is survived by two sons from his first marriage, Andrew Rosenberg and Lawrence Rosenberg, two grandchildren, Kyle Rosenberg and Katy Rosenberg Winn, and three great-grandchildren, Brantly, Jaxon and Piper Winn.
He is also survived by his second wife, Carole Clemente Halsband Rosenberg, whom he married in 1977. She became his partner at the Alex Rosenberg Gallery at 20 West 57th Street, which operated from 1978 to 1988. He cared for his two stepsons, Michael Halsband and Kenneth Halsband, and has two step-grandchildren, Jacob and Isaac Halsband.
Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch will hold a memorial service at 10:30 am on August 9 at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue at 30 West 68th Street in Manhattan