Acquisitions News

Estate of David Rockefeller Gives Works by Native American Artists to MFA Boston, Mesa Verde National Park Museum

Velino Shije Herrera (Ma-Pe-Wi), Buffalo Hunt, before 1928.


The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Mesa Verde National Park Museum in Colorado have received works by Native American artists from the estate of the late collector David Rockefeller, with 52 pieces going to the MFA and more than 100 going to the Mesa Verde Museum. (WBUR first reported news of the Mesa Verde National Park Museum acquisition.) All of the pieces in the gift were previously owned by Rockefeller and his wife, Peggy.

The gifts feature work by a variety of Native American tribes and nations, including Nez Perce cornhusk bags, Plains beadwork, and a painting from the Taos School in New Mexico. Some of these works had previously been displayed at the so-called “Rest House,” a lodging located on the Rockefeller family property on Mt. Desert Island in Maine.

David Rockefeller, who died in 2017 at age 101, is often remembered for the collection of modern art he assembled with Peggy. His holdings, which included pieces by Paul Cézanne, Willem de Kooning, and Pablo Picasso, among others, were the subject of a show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1994. But, in addition to the high-priced Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and modern artworks he sought out, he also collected Chinese porcelain, decorative art, and Native American artworks such as these. David made the ARTnews “Top 200 Collectors” list each year between 1996 and 2005.

Matthew Teitelbaum, the MFA’s director, said in a release announcing the Boston museum’s acquisition, “These significant examples of Native American art will allow us to broaden the stories we present in our galleries and further explore in our public programs. As the MFA continues to diversify the narratives we tell about the art of the Americas, we strive to be inclusive of the wide range of artists who have contributed to these histories.

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