Luisa Kreisberg (1934-2007)
Luisa Kreisberg, who directed the communications office of The Museum of Modern Art during some of its most eventful years, went on to establish her own widely influential public relations firm and advised a host of high-profile clients, from Lincoln Center, the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Rockefeller Foundation to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the New York Times Company, has died at age 72 following a long struggle with cancer.
Ms. Kreisberg began her career as a reporter and critic, writing about the arts for the Gannett Westchester newspapers, Parade and the Westchester edition of The New York Times. She was hired at The Museum of Modern Art in 1977 at the suggestion of the Modern’s chairman at the time, William S. Paley, who believed the museum’s press office ought to be run by a journalist. While at the Modern, she oversaw the public relations for the museum’s 50th anniversary events, the landmark Picasso retrospective, the controversial sale of the museum’s air rights, and the opening of the expanded Modern in 1984.
Striking out on her own, she founded The Kreisberg Group in 1985 and quickly built a leading public relations business around her own personality. A statuesque woman draped in Miyake couture, six feet tall and endlessly energetic, she could be alternately imposing and disarming, sometimes facing down powerful trustees and sometimes introducing herself as “an entrepreneurial grandmother.”
She chose to define her work as “cultural advocacy.” Art museums, both venerable and new, were among her frequent clients-by the time she retired, in 2001, she estimated that she had helped open sixty of them-but she also became a trusted advisor to foundations, civic organizations, corporations undertaking arts initiatives and highly regarded architects. She guided the public relations for the public-private redevelopment of New York’s 42nd Street and Grand Central Terminal; brought the White House together with Sara Lee Corporation to announce a “millennium gift” of Impressionist artworks to US museums; and became the trusted advisor of architects including Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman, Rafael Vin~oly, Robert A.M. Stern and Zaha Hadid.
Born Louisa Applebaum, the daughter of an oil company executive, Ms. Kreisberg spent some of her youth in the oil fields of Colombia, an experience that inspired her to adopt the Spanish spelling of her first name. At age 19, while still in college, she met and married an attorney from Brooklyn, Barrett Kreisberg, who was becoming active in Westchester business and politics. While raising her family in Westchester, Ms. Kreisberg began her career as an arts journalist, often amusing her young sons Seth and Joel with the long, trailing articles she would produce, stapled together out of the rearranged sections of her typewritten first drafts.
In addition to her professional activities, Ms. Kreisberg was a trustee of the Harkness Foundation (of which her husband was the chairman), the New York Foundation for the Arts, Independent Curators Inc., the Council on Economic Priorities and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. After her diagnosis with cancer in 1998, she extended her advocacy to cancer patients and to scientists engaged in research into alternative therapies, including the Cancer Research Institute.
Luisa Kreisberg is survived by her son Joel, of Berkeley, California; five grandchildren, Daniel, Gabriel, Rebecca, Jeremiah and Samuel; and by her sisters Paulina Stark and Marcia Forbes. She is predeceased by her husband Barrett Kreisberg and her son Seth Kreisberg.