Collecting Art, Narrating Culture: Indian Art in John D. Rockefeller 3rd Asian Collections

by Brinda Kumar

Jan 1, 2012
My research project at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) began with an interest in the personal art collecting practices of John D. Rockefeller 3rd (JDR 3rd) and his wife Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller (BHR), with particular emphasis on their Asian art collections, and specifically their Indian art collections. The history of these collections at the Asia Society has been well documented, however, my interests lay more in the pre-bequest history of the collections. This was pertinent to my larger interests in the history of private collecting of Indian art in America, particularly by individuals who played a multifaceted role in the greater understanding and appreciation of such art within the United States. While JDR 3rd was not a curator or scholar of art, he nevertheless situated his Asian art collection within his interests in the cultural sphere of Asia, particularly in the post-war era. Thus, even though JDR 3rd's art collecting was a private initiative, and his collection initially occupied a private space, (either in his home or office) he quickly saw the scope of art, as well as his own collection, in furthering American cultural understanding of Asia.
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