Tell us a little about yourself, why Africa?
There are a number of reasons on ‘why Africa’. I've always loved African art—I was first exposed to it at a very young age. Growing up, my family knew Chaim Gross, the well known sculptor, artist and collector of tribal art. He had a beautiful town house in the West Village in New York City, which I was fortunate to visit.
I was an Art History major in college—we didn't spend a lot of time on African art but we certainly covered it and my love for African art was rekindled. Then of course, during visits to museums I’d see tribal pieces and I always found them fascinating. Even if there were pieces that I personally would not choose to live with, I appreciated the form and power.
I also love the extremes in African art —from the sleek and sensuous minimalism of, for instance, a Mangbetu drum to heavily patinated and intricately carved works. As much as I love simplicity and minimalism, I also love complex objects such as figures with detailed scarification patterns or fetiches which have layered textures.
What motivated you to start dealing in classic African art?
It really was my husband, Daniel Rootenberg’s idea; he’s the one that really got us going with collecting. One day he said, “why don’t we turn this into a business?”. I was very interested in the idea because it was at a time in my life when I was open to beginning a new career. We developed a website and started participating in shows. The first show we exhibited in was in Manhattan at the Armory. We had a successful show and this motivated us to keep going.