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An Office to Shine in

The Brooklyn Museum’s David Berliner feels right at home at work.

Photo: Seth Caplan
Photo: Seth Caplan

A corporate office can be a downer. Or as David Berliner, the Brooklyn Museum’s president and chief operating officer, politely described the office he inherited when he arrived in 2016, “It was not designed. Let’s just say that.” But his co-worker Anne Pasternak, the museum’s director, had raised the bar with her office, so Berliner knew he had to up his game too. “I was inspired by Anne’s office. It was gorgeous. So that was my point of departure.” Like Pasternak, Berliner was keenly aware of budget constraints and had to come up with a plan that was “beautiful, cool, and functional for not a lot of money.” Step one: Raid your own home.

One of the perks of working at the Brooklyn Museum is being able to spend personal time with some of the treasures in storage, if permission is granted from the curators, of course. Above, a bust of American statesman Henry Clay, by Joel Tanner Hart, is reflected in one of the many mirrors from the museum’s collection that hang above Berliner’s desk. The Andy Warhol wallpaper from Flavor Paper can be seen up close in detail.

Berliner admired the Eero Saarinen table in Pasternak’s office, and then he thought, I have a Saarinen table; maybe it could work here? “So I brought my kitchen table and chairs to work,” he says. The Warhol wallpaper reflects the abundance of natural light in the room. Photo: Seth Caplan
“The first thing we did was pick the art,” Berliner says, citing the large Leon Polk Smith painting Black Anthem (1960), above two chairs (which were originally covered in black pleather) that he poached from home. “Polk Smith was the obvious choice because he was so modern and clean and sharp,” Berliner explains. “I thought it was a good counterpoint to all the portraits in the reception area.” The sculpture on the right side table, Bush, is by Harry Bertoia from the mid-’70s. Photo: Seth Caplan
Two more works by Smith hang to the left of a painting by Charmion von Wiegand, The Ancestral Altar From I Ching (1954). A much larger sculpture by Harry Bertoia, also called Bush, is in the corner by the window. The bench with a silk-upholstered cushion, by Duncan Phyfe, shakes things up in a good way. Photo: Seth Caplan
Berliner is seen here at his Saarinen table, where he does most of his work and takes meetings. “It’s good to show art in many ways, right?” he says. “One of the things that Anne’s vision includes is breaking down barriers between high and low. Someone mentioned that we have one of the best decorative-arts collections in the world, and we have to show it off. Like in the director’s office, for example — it’s a great opportunity.” Photo: Seth Caplan

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