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Blanchette Rockefeller, Engaged Leadership, and MoMA, 1949-1987December 12, 2022
This essay aims to highlight Blanchette Rockefeller's leadership style, which emphasized artistic appreciation, collaborative leadership, and institution building. As both a prominent donor to the museum as well as a fixture in leadership during the mid-twentieth century, Mrs. Rockefeller's leadership style falls somewhere between what we would think of as philanthropy and management. Not coincidentally, her husband, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, was engaged with public institutions in the sphere of Asia-US cultural and social relations and pioneered a type of philanthropy denominated "venture philanthropy," which entailed an intellectual and social commitment to favored causes that complemented financial support.[i] In some sense, Blanchette's approach to leadership drew on three key areas: an intellectual emphasis, evident in her passion for promoting artistic appreciation; a social component, manifest in her use of collaborative efforts to advance the mission of MoMA; and, finally, an investment of time, which arguably, in addition to financial support, represented a scarce resource she lavished on the various programs and institutions that she was called to pioneer within MoMA.
Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller: Muse of the Museum of Modern ArtMarch 15, 2018
"The role of women in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has been a vital one from the day the idea was first conceived," observed David Rockefeller to a small gathering in a newly dedicated gallery on the recently expanded third floor of New York's MoMA on December 7, 1987. "[And] we are here today to give thanks and praise to [an] amazing and dedicated lady who . . . since she became President of the Museum for a second time in 1972, has probably had a greater impact on the evolution of MoMA both internally and externally than any other one individual."The setting, in fact, was the dedication of a gallery designated for abstract expressionist art in whose honor the space was named, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller. Thirty years after that ceremony, thousands of patrons continue to mill through the delicately lit space, some soothed by the muted cardinal color of an outsized Barnet Newman canvas, others stirred by a Jackson Pollack oeuvre, most unaware of the singular influence of the gallery's namesake on the museum's history itself.
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