The Artful Alex Rosenberg Remembered, 1919–2022

Alex Rosenberg with family and friends Carole, Bill McCuddy, Suzanne Kort, Beverly Camhe
From left Producer and family friend Beverly Camhe, Alex Rosenberg (seated) with his wife Carole who rarely left his side, Bill McCuddy, Suzanne Kort. Photo taken on the back porch of the couple’s home on Little Cobb Road in Water Mill.

Alex Rosenberg, an art historian who lived in the Hamptons and in Manhattan, died on July 22. He was 103.

Rosenberg lived through a large portion of the booming art market and worked as an art appraiser and expert till the day he died. His last public appearance was three weeks ago at the Hamptons Fine Art Fair in Southampton. He was the hit of the show. And it was a hot day. He didn’t have to come. He wanted to.

Last year while sitting on his back porch in Water Mill the phone never stopped ringing. His adoring wife Carole was always close by. One inquiry after another from colleagues.

Could he come look over this or that collection? Did he know the works of this or that artist? He did. He was patient, generous with his time, and the consummate host.

“Living to 100 was totally out of consideration,” he said when he turned that milestone. “On my 90th I spoke mainly of yesterday and mostly of today. At 100 there is almost no tomorrow.”

He was charmingly off by three years.

“My mother and father died young but gave me the genes that allow me to be here today,” he added at 100.

Alex was a devout Jew.

“While over the centuries there have been many attempts to eradicate the Jewish people, the principles of Judaism remain. Otherwise how would we have gone from being a Semitic people to principally being of Slavic background?” he wondered.

“When I was 10 years old the venerable Plaza Hotel was only 10 years old,” he confessed. “Movies had no voice but the piano player in the theater accompanied the film. Life was much simpler then, but I’m not certain it was better.”

He is survived by his second wife, Carole Clemente Halsband Rosenberg. They married in 1977. She became his partner in the Alex Rosenberg Gallery on West 57th Street.

“The art world lost their senior appraiser,” she said just after his passing. “What a life he had,” she added. “We were perfect together and you don’t see that around too much anymore. We brought out the best in each other.”

Alex is also 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 two stepchildren, Michael Halsband and Kenneth Halsband, and two step-grandchildren, Jacob and Isaac Halsband.

The art world’s “senior appraiser” was born on May 25, 1919 in Brooklyn. He attended Albright College in Pennsylvania before transferring to the Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science.

Later he received honorary degrees from Hofstra University and a prominent Cuban university.

He married Dorothy Hardy in 1941. That marriage ended in divorce. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and served as a pilot in World War II, rising to second lieutenant.

But it was a portfolio of Salvador Dali work that moved this businessman into the art world in 1968. He never looked back.

He was appalled and even chagrined by what had happened during his years in the business.

“We are shocked when we hear how much people are paying to acquire art. What had originally been a cultural tool is now an economic tool,” he shared during a chat last year.

He laughed easily at the antics of Dali, the modern business practices of art galleries, auction houses, and spoke at length about the pleasure his work brought him. And about his years as a political activist. Then the phone rang again. Even on a Sunday, there was no rest for the art expert everyone wanted a word with.

Bill McCuddy is a frequent arts and entertainment contributor to Dans. He and his wife Suzanne Kort are modest art collectors who live in Bridgehampton.

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