Jennifer Calais Smith
The Four Seasons Restaurant in Midtown, once noted by New York Magazine as perhaps the best place in the city to enjoy (or at least witness) a power lunch (“Everything…tastes better when you’re on an expense account”) faces rumors of shuttering after five decades of service. The New York Times reports that Le Tricorne, the Picasso tapestry which has adorned the hallway of the restaurant since it opened, and painted by the artist for Ballets Russes in 1919, is scheduled to be removed on Feb. 9, fueling rumors that the building’s landlord has new plans for the space.
The Seagram Building, where The Four Seasons is located, is owned by RFR Holding, co-founded by Aby Rosen. Currently, Rosen is in negotiations with The Four Seasons’ owners over the lease, which is scheduled to expire in 2016. According to Page Six, Rosen took out a $783 million mortgage on the restaurant and asked for a dramatic increase in rent, leading to speculation that Rosen may be inclined to open his own restaurant there.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which oversees the restaurant as an existing interior landmark, learned from Rosen that the tapestry was to be removed for 'structural repairs' to the wall behind it. The Conservancy hired structural engineers to review the issue, who then released a report stating that all necessary repair could be done “without disturbing the Picasso curtain,” according to The New York Times.
Peg Breen, president of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, told us that the organization was pursuing a temporary restraining order against the move from a state supreme court, and expected to hear a decision well before Sunday. "Not only is there no emergency building condition requiring its removal, but every conservator and art moving company we've spoken to has raised the possibility that moving it could break or irreperably harm it."
Despite two engineering reports that dispute the need to do repairs, Rosen has yet to be moved. "We even offered to pay to monitor the wall for future damage," said Breen, but Rosen is set on Sunday.
The larger issue behind the scheduled removal, still, is that Rosen is widely believed to be looking to end his relationship to the restaurant. Julian Niccolini, co-owner of The Four Seasons, does not agree.
“We’ve been here since 1959, and we’ll be here for another 15 years,” he told Page Six. At the time of reporting, RFR Holding has not responded for comment.
UPDATE: Judge Matthew F. Cooper of the New York City Supreme Court has issued an injunction against the removal of Le Tricorne and told The Daily News, "I don't want to be the judge who has a Picasso destroyed."