NEW YORK—”I’m not actively collecting,” David Rockefeller, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Chase Manhattan Bank, recently informed ARTnewsletter, “unless I see something irresistible.”
Among the artists whose works he has purchased in the past five years are Chuck Close, Willem de Kooning, Lucian Freud, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Sisley. He declined, however, to specify the amount of collecting he has done or how much he has spent on the acquisition of art.
Rockefeller recently announced a bequest of $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the largest gift in its history. Over the years he has also given the museum numerous paintings, prints and drawings from his extensive personal collection.
Donated as “fractional gifts”—i.e., for tax purposes the works will become officially owned by the museum in a piecemeal manner rather than all at once—these include five paintings by Pablo Picasso, three by Paul Cézanne, two by Pierre Bonnard, and one each by Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, Sam Francis, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and Paul Signac.
Rockefeller, who turns 90 this summer, is chairman emeritus of the Modern and will be honored at its annual sculpture garden gala, named for the philanthropist’s mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, a cofounder of the museum in 1929. Rockefeller himself has been a longtime art collector, with a decided preference for School of Paris painters as well as selected postwar American art.
Works from the Rockefeller collection, including those donated to the museum, were exhibited at the Modern in 1994, in a show entitled “Masterpieces from the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: [Edouard] Manet to Picasso.”
The promised $100 million gift, slated to enhance the museum’s educational programs, is not Rockefeller’s first monetary contribution to the museum; he donated $77 million toward its recent $858 million renovation and expansion. As a member of the board since 1948, he has served as chairman three times, most recently from 1987-93.
He regularly goes to his office in Rockefeller Center, where the walls are filled with pictures from his collection by artists the likes of Fernando
Botero, de Kooning,Gauguin, Manet, Picasso and Mark Rothko—and continues to be on the lookout for more art.