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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Nelson A. Rockefeller during a 1969 press conference at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a pair of Bamum figures from Cameroon. Photograph by Michael Fredericks.

1930: Nelson Rockefeller, visiting Hawai'i on his around-the-world honeymoon, acquires his first work of "primitive" art, a Hawaiian bowl.

1932: Rockefeller becomes a Trustee of both The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

1933: Rockefeller visits Mexico for the first time.

1935: Exhibition African Negro Art is presented at MoMA and has a profound effect on the future leadership of the Museum of Primitive Art.

1937: Rockefeller travels to South America, where he particularly admires Peruvian antiquities.

1939: Rockefeller acquires a group of Peruvian ceramic bowls in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1940: Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art opens at MoMA in cooperation with the Mexican government. Rockefeller becomes President of MoMA's Board of Trustees.

ca. 1940: Nelson Rockefeller meets René d'Harnoncourt in New York.

1941: Indian Art of the United States opens at MoMA, organized by René d'Harnoncourt, then general manager of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, and Frederic H. Douglas.

1941–45: As coordinator of the Office of Inter-American Affairs, Rockefeller travels widely in Latin America.

1942: Rockefeller proposes to the Trustees of MoMA the formation of a collection of folk and indigenous art of the New World, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, and other objects of applied arts.

1944: MoMA hires René d'Harnoncourt as Vice President in charge of foreign affairs and Director of the Department of Manual Industries.

1946: Arts of the South Seas, organized by René d'Harnoncourt in collaboration with Ralph Linton and Paul Wingert, opens at MoMA.

1949: d'Harnoncourt becomes Director of MoMA.

1949: Rockefeller acquires his first works of African, American Indian, Oceanic, and Precolumbian art from dealers in New York and Los Angeles.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Left: View of exhibition Primitive Sculpture from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection, Century Association, New York City, January 7 to March 1, 1953. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Goldwater Library, K2 N495 Spec Coll. Right: Original charter for the Museum of Indigenous Art, December 24, 1956. The Museum of Primitive Art Records, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, AR.1999.9.6.

1953: Primitive Sculpture from the Collection of Nelson A. Rockefeller, the first exhibition drawn from the Rockefeller Collection, opens at the Century Association, New York City.

1954: Ancient Arts of the Andes, a major international loan show, including works from the Rockefeller collection, opens at MoMA, organized by d'Harnoncourt and archaeologist Wendell Bennett.

Museum of Indigenous Art, on West 54th Street in New York, is chartered as an educational corporation, "the first of its kind in the world." Rockefeller and d'Harnoncourt are principal officers.

September 1956: Robert Goldwater is appointed Director of the Museum of Indigenous Art.

December 1956: Museum of Indigenous Art is formally renamed Museum of Primitive Art (MPA).

1957: The MPA opens to the public with the exhibition Selected Works One, which features a wide range of objects from diverse areas of the world.

Douglas Newton joins the MPA staff as an assistant curator.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Left: View of the façade of the Museum of Primitive Art, 15 West 54th Street, New York City. The Museum of Primitive Art Records, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, AR.1999.17.98. Right: Exhibition view, Exhibition 1, Selected Works from the Collection, The Museum of Primitive Art, February 20–May 19, 1957. The Museum of Primitive Art Records, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, AR.1999.1.3

1958: Rockefeller acquires a Benin ivory pendant mask for a record price for a work of "primitive" art.

Selected Works Four displays the MPA's collection of ancient Peruvian textiles and featherwork.

1959: Rockefeller's son, Michael, becomes an MPA Trustee.

The exhibition The Art of Lake Sentani is presented at the MPA.

Nelson Rockefeller is elected as the fourteenth governor of New York.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Left: Exhibition view with Nelson A. Rockefeller and Robert Goldwater, Exhibition 4, Art of Ancient Peru, February 19–May 18, 1958. Rockefeller Family Archives. Courtesy of Rockefeller Archive Center, NAR RG 4, Project Series Box 164, Folder 1662. Right: Exhibition view, Exhibition 9, The Art of Lake Sentani, Museum of Modern Art, September 16, 1959–February 7, 1960, The Museum of Primitive Art Archives, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, AR.1999.1.20.

1961: Art Styles of the Papuan Gulf opens at the MPA.

Michael Rockefeller joins the Harvard-Peabody New Guinea Expedition to the Baliem Valley in western New Guinea and makes his first collecting trip to the Asmat region. He is lost while on a second collecting trip to the Asmat later that year.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Left: Michael Rockefeller kneeling on the ground with recording equipment, surrounded by a dance circle in the Highlands of western New Guinea, 1961. Photograph by Eliot Elisofon. © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, PM# 2006.37.1.15.30, digital file number, 155700079. Right: Exhibition view, Exhibition 25, Art of the Asmat, New Guinea: Collected by Michael C. Rockefeller, The Museum of Modern Art, September 11–November 6, 1962. The Museum of Primitive Art Records, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, AR.1999.17.47.

1962: MPA exhibition The Art of the Asmat, New Guinea: Collected by Michael C. Rockefeller, designed by d'Harnoncourt with assistance of Newton, opens in a specially built pavilion in MoMA's courtyard.

1963: Under Goldwater's direction, MPA presents Senufo Sculpture from West Africa.

Mary Rockefeller Morgan is elected to MPA Board of Trustees.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Left: Press clipping with Nelson A. Rockefeller and his daughter Mary Rockefeller Morgan at the opening of the exhibition Art of the Asmat, New Guinea: Collected by Michael C. Rockefeller, New York Herald Tribune, September 12, 1961. The Museum of Primitive Art Records, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, AR.1999.1.40. Right: Exhibition catalogue, The Jaguar's Children: Pre-Classic Central Mexico, Michael D. Coe. New York, N.Y. : Museum of Primitive Art ; distributed by the New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, Conn., 1965  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Goldwater Library, T7P A11 C67 REF

1965: MPA loan show, The Jaguar's Children: Pre-Classic Central Mexico, focuses on the complex history of the early peoples of that region in the mid-1st millennium B.C.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Left: Exhibition view, Art nègre: sources, évolution, expansion, at the Musée dynamique de Dakar during the First World Festival of Negro Arts, 1966, Dakar, Senegal. © Courtesy of École du Louvre, Paris. All rights reserved. Right: Robert Goldwater, Thomas Hoving, Douglas Newton, Nelson A. Rockefeller, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art press event announcing the transfer of the Museum of Primitive art’s collection, library, and staff to the Met, May 1969. Photograph by Michael Fredericks.

1966: First World Festival of Negro Arts (1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres) held in Dakar, Senegal. The MPA lends twenty-three works on this occasion.

1967: MPA publishes The Asmat of New Guinea: The Journal of Michael Clark Rockefeller, containing Michael Rockefeller's notes and photographs and a catalogue of the Asmat works he collected.

1969: Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from The Museum of Primitive Art opens at the Met to introduce the Museum's public to the Rockefeller collections.

Rockefeller signs an agreement to transfer the MPA's collection, staff, and library to the Met.

1974: Newton succeeds Goldwater as Director of MPA and is appointed Chairman for the Met's Department of Primitive Art.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

Architectural rendering of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing elevated gallery area for the Arts of Africa, 1975-1981. The Museum of Primitive Art Records, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,  AR.1999.19.47.

Construction of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing begins, designed by architects at Kevin Roche John Pinkeloo and Associates.

Mary R. Morgan is elected to the MMA Board of Trustees.

MPA closes its doors to the public.

1978 to 1979: MPA collection, staff, and library are transferred to the Met.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision

View of the recently opened Oceanic art gallery in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982.  The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

1982: Michael C. Rockefeller Wing opens at the Met.

1991: The Met's board of trustees votes to rename the "Department of Primitive Art," the "Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas."