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Nelson Rockefeller’s Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at The Met, New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently opened a year long exhibition of The Nelson Rockefeller Vision: In Pursuit of the Best in the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, until 5 October 2014.

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Feathered tunic, Inca, Peru, 1450-1550

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The core of the Met’s substantial holdings of tribal art came as a result of the vision and sustained efforts of an influential figure in both American political life and the New York art scene: sometime New York Governor and 41st Vice-President of the USA, Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908–1979). The key influences for Rockefeller were his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, a founder of the Museum of Modern Art, and his travels. His passion for collecting included modern art, Far Eastern sculpture and painting, and Precolumbian, South Sea Islands, and African art.

In 1954, Rockefeller founded the Museum of Indigenous Art – a cultural organisation devoted to the  lesser-known artistic traditions and encompassed an array of non-Western art traditions. It later became known as the Museum of Primitive Art and over two decades the collection of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas became the most important ever assembled. When the Museum of Primitive Art closed in December 1974, its library, staff, and 3,500 works were transferred to the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan.

Sixty years after the founding of the Museum of Primitive Art, the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas occupy a place of prominence at the Met, a tribute to Nelson Rockefeller’s vision.

Nelson Rockefeller

Headdress: Female Bust (D’mba), Baga people, Niger River region, Guinea, 19th–20th century

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Nelson Rockefeller Male Figure, Inyai-Ewa people, Papua New Guinea, Korewori River, 16th–19th century

Wooden Male figure, Inyai-Ewa people, Papua New Guinea, Korewori River, 16th–19th century

Nelson Rockefeller Shield (Grere'o [?]), Solomon Islands, early to mid-19th century

Shield (Grere’o [?]), Solomon Islands, early to mid-19th century

Buffalo Helmet Mask (Kablé), Burkina Faso, 19th-mid 20th century

Buffalo helmet mask (Kablé), Burkina Faso, 19th-mid 20th century

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Nelson Rockefeller Plaque: Equestrian Oba and Attendants, Edo people, Court of Benin, Nigeria, 1550-1680

Bronze plaque: Equestrian Oba and attendants, Edo people, Court of Benin, Nigeria, 1550-1680

Hunchback Leaning on Staff, Huastec, Veracruz, Mexico, 10th–12th century

Sandstone hunchback leaning on staff, Huastec, Veracruz, Mexico, 10th–12th century

Female ceramic figure, Chupicuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, 3rd century BCE–4th century CE

Female ceramic figure, Chupicuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, 3rd century BCE–4th century CE

Power Figure: Male (Nkisi), Kongo peoples, 19th–mid-20th century

Male power figure (Nkisi), Kongo peoples, 19th–mid-20th century

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Mother and child figure, Kongo, Yombe group, 19th–20th century

Mother and child figure, Kongo, Yombe group, 19th–20th century

Mask (Kifwebe), Luba peoples, Congo, 19th–mid-20th century

Mask (Kifwebe), Luba peoples, Congo, 19th–mid-20th century

Gold double-eagle pendant, Initial Style, Panama, 1st-5th century

Gold double-eagle pendant, Initial Style, Panama, 1st-5th century

Gold and silver nose ornament with shrimp, Moche (Loma Negra), Peru, 390-450

Gold and silver nose ornament with shrimp, Moche (Loma Negra), Peru, 390-450

Camelid hair and cotton tunic section, Wari, Peru, 7th-9th century

Camelid hair and cotton tunic section, Wari, Peru, 7th-9th century

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