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Nelson Rockefeller's 1969 Audio Guide Introduction

In this 1969 recording, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller introduces the Audio Guide produced for the Met's exhibition The Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. Published in conjunction with The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision: In Pursuit of the Best in the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, on view October 8, 2013–October 5, 2014.

Governor Rockefeller: This is Nelson Rockefeller. I want to welcome you to this exhibition of works of art from the Museum of Primitive Art. I think you'll really enjoy this show. I personally first became interested in so-called primitive art in the 1930s, when I was travelling in the Philippines, Indonesia, and the South Sea Islands, and later while working in Central and South America. It was the strength and excitement of the art of these less known civilizations, created by peoples of cultures removed from our own that fascinated me. You become aware of the unlimited imagination, quality, and simplicity inherent in these so-called primitive objects. The force and creativity of the individual artist can be felt immediately. Later I began to add to the collection pieces from the great civilizations of Africa and pre-historic Europe and Asia.

When the late Rene d'Harnoncourt and I established the Museum of Primitive Art in 1957, it was the first in the world dedicated to exhibiting and preserving primitive art because of its beauty alone. Students of anthropology use primitive objects to find out more about the peoples who made them. Art historians approach them from the point of view of identifying styles and patterns of cultural contact. Critics are concerned with the important role that primitive art has played in the development of twentieth-century styles by such great painters as Braque, Matisse, and Picasso. In a way, modern art actually has opened our eyes to the great qualities of primitive art. My own interest has been purely aesthetic. The beauty and fascination of form, texture, color, and shape provide never-ending delight and excitement.

Whatever we can learn about the art displayed in these galleries, the objects themselves transcend all explanation. In that sense they're like all works of art, and it is appropriate that they should be looked at in the perspective of the other great artistic achievements of the world. I'm delighted, therefore, that this collection, today here in the Metropolitan Museum, lets us do just that. And I'm equally delighted that it is going to find a permanent home here in the Metropolitan. And I want to express my gratefulness to you, Mr. Hoving, and to the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum for your enthusiasm and cooperation.

Master file of a digitized reel-to-reel Acoustiguide recording. The Museum of Primitive Art Records, The Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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