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On April 6, 1971, Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller delivered a formal talk to New York's Colony Club titled, "Amateur Collecting at Home and Abroad." Mrs. Rockefeller had visited Japan for the first time in 1951, where she spent six weeks in Tokyo with her husband, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, who served as an unofficial cultural attaché to Douglas MacArthur's Japan Peace Commission. Like his mentor— former High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations, and first US Ambassador to Israel— Dr. James G. McDonald, Mr. Rockefeller spent most of his time as part of the commission interviewing political, economic, and cultural authorities to find ways of improving cultural relations between the two countries. As a result, John devised a model based on bilateral cultural exchange—a two-way street . Toward that end, he later planned and built a conference center, the International House of Japan, where scholars and public officials from Europe and the United States exchanged ideas with their Japanese counterparts. These luminaries included the likes of Arnold Toynbee and Eleanor Roosevelt. Rockefeller's Japanese collaborator in that venture was an internationally minded journalist, Shigeharu Matsumoto. The Rockefellers and Matsumotos formed their own two-way relationship spanning the rest of their respective lives, as well as those of their children.While this study emphasizes the evolution of Blanchette Rockefeller's interest in Asia and the subsequent founding of the Asian Cultural Council, it bears understanding how such a study fits within the field of Asian cultural exchange during the twentieth century.
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.
While conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, "Grace McCann Morley and the Dialectical Exchange of Modern Art in the Americas, 1935-1958," I visited the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in order to learn more about Grace McCann Morley's work with Nelson Rockefeller and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), through materials in Nelson A. Rockefeller's personal papers. In 1940, Rockefeller invited Morley, the director of the San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMA; now San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), to serve as an advisor to the CIAA and its Committee on Art. This committee planned exhibitions such as La Pintura Contemporánea Norteamericana for Latin American audiences and Latin American Art for US audiences. Although my research in the archives did not uncover correspondence between Rockefeller and Morley, it did reveal useful contextual information about Rockefeller's investment in collecting and exhibiting Latin American art and Morley's relationship with Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA).
Life magazine's vast networks and the connections and collaborations between its editors and museum trustees, collectors, curators, critics, and artists at a wide range of institutions led to some of the most fascinating and innovative exhibitions, magazine articles, and programs in the mid-century American art world.
This research report provides edited excerpts from my PhD thesis, "Politics of the Past: Archaeology, Nationalism and Diplomacy in Afghanistan, 1919–2001," submitted to the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. The aim of the thesis was to assess the relationship between nationalist agendas and the discipline of archaeology in Afghanistan from 1919 to 2001. The material collected from the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) contributed to Chapter 5 of the thesis, which focused on the political period 1946–1978 in Afghanistan, when Afghan leaders began to open the country to international archaeological teams. At the RAC, I was particularly interested in uncovering material pertaining to a travelling exhibition of artefacts from the National Museum of Afghanistan, which opened at Asia House in New York City in 1966. The following segments also draw on archival material from the JFK Library in Boston, Massachusetts and the National Archives in Delhi, India. The material collected from the RAC helped demonstrate how Afghan leaders used archaeology to build diplomatic relations with key allies, including Japan and the United States, during the 1960s.
The purpose of my research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was to identify the ways that American philanthropic foundations' arts-focused initiatives connected to social science programs for modernizing the Middle East in the 1950s. This research is a central component of my forthcoming book, Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in 1950s Turkey. At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I found that John Marshall, Associate Director for the Humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, was unusually forward-thinking in his belief that arts-focused philanthropy could help drive development in the Middle East. In what follows, I argue that the Turkish ceramicist Füreya Koral, to whom Marshall offered one of the foundation's very first artist's fellowships in 1956, served as a test case for Marshall's hypothesis that the modern artist had an important role to play in the modernization of the Middle East.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson wrote the definitive biography, spanning two volumes, of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the oldest son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Their books, The Rockefeller Century(1988) and The Rockefeller Conscience (1991), offer the ideal starting point for more focused studies on the life of the self-effacing brother of Abby, David, Laurance, Nelson, and Winthrop Rockefeller. As a historian of tourism and travel I wanted to better understand how JDR 3rd's travel experiences influenced his collection of East and South Asian art, as well as the institutions that he established there and in the United States to foster cross-cultural understanding (including the International House in Tokyo, the India International Centre in New Delhi, and the Asia Society in New York) between East and West and among Asians themselves. As I worked in the Rockefeller Family Archives during the summer of 2010, however, I learned that JDR 3rd's travels not only shaped his interest in Asian art and crosscultural institutions, but, as the quote from the French travel-writer Nicolas Bouvier above suggests, also changed the man himself.
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