The story of the pioneering Milan born, American visual artist Bettina Werner – known internationally as The Salt Queen – is an inspirational narrative of a formidable young woman’s lone journey from Italy to the Island of Manhattan, and her revolutionary invention of a new art form, creating work with salt crystals. Described by one of her Italian collectors as “bringing her special gifts to the new land with the only thing that remains on our bodies when we have little else but the salt on the skin”, Werner, a graduate of the prestigious Brera Academy Of Fine Arts in Milan, arrived in NYC in 1989. She shortly thereafter made a mark in the art world with her creation of a textured, colorized salt crystal technique, invented in the early 1980’s. This invention established her as one of the leading artists of the 20th century, and to this day, still represents a significant milestone in the international art community.
Bettina Werner’s innovative work with salt – encompassing original, creative uses of color and multi-textured grains of radiant rock salt crystal mines from Sicily and Puglia – has been exhibited in some of the most prestigious museums and collections across the globe. The Whitney in NY, the Pushkin in Moscow, the Triennale in Milan, as well as galleries including Marisa Del Re Gallery in Manhattan, and notable venues like Tiffany & Co. have all housed some of Werner’s significant artwork. She is the first European artist to be included in the Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Art Collection, the largest and most famous art collection in the US.
“Salt was used by the Egyptians for burial, by the Catholics for baptisms, by the Hindus for weddings, and as a seasoning for food,” says Werner. “It was also used as a preservative. Its balance is vital to our very life’s force, and is dependent on the balance of 75 million cells in our bodies.”
For over ten year’s, the distinguished artist has called Manhattan’s Financial District home, since establishing her iconic art-loft across the street from the New York Stock Exchange in the Starck Building, itself renowned for its rich history and a particularly spectacular drooping chandelier. Surrounded by some of histories greatest moments (Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the US) and iconic buildings including 23 Wall Street (former office of J.P. Morgan), Federal Hall, the first Supreme Court, and the former US Sub-Treasury, Werner’s art-filled loft in the luxury building, originally built in 1914, is every bit as charming and rich in history as the buildings surrounding it. With a 5,000 square foot rooftop park, complete with a pool and lounge area, the building also boasts a winter fireplace directly across from the NYSE. “Do you know that salt used to be currency,” exclaims the artist. “In Ancient times, salt was a symbol of prosperity. This is where the word salarium, meaning, salary, comes from.”
On entering Werner’s art-loft, one is immediately taken in by the beautiful, vast open space of the living area, with windows directly overlooking the NYSE. A magnificent salt crystal backgammon table, a sculptural art piece created by the artist which doubles as a dining table, is the centerpiece in the loft, surrounded by some of her most remarkable art collection. “Salt is More Precious than Gold! As Homer relates, salt stands higher above the ordinary human view point!”
Throughout her residency in this otherwise solely financial community, Werner has been a staunch advocate for revitalizing the arts. Her numerous contributions have included an exhibition on all four floors of the opulent Down Town Association Clubhouse, one of NY’s finest examples of Romanesque Revival design (as well as the second oldest building in the US). Not least, the artist also held a 25 year Art Retrospective at 7 World Trade Center overlooking Ground Zero, an exhibit that represented a crowning career achievement. Her impact on this Wall Street neighborhood is no doubt deeply felt. Simply visit Delmonico’s, America’s first premiere steakhouse established in 1837, or stop by BMW of Manhattan. You will find someone there to tell you of the magnificent Salt Queen.