New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) made headlines just a few days ago when it announced it would be closing during the summer months to revamp its galleries and rehang its entire collection. The museum, though, hasn’t moved out of the spotlight of this week’s news quite yet. Shortly after the announcement was made that the beloved institution would be closed for a bit, the David Rockefeller Estate made a sizable donation to the MoMA – a donation to the tune of $200 million.
After the death Rockefeller, the grandson of John D. Rockefeller who made his millions in oil, in 2017 at the age of 101, Christie’s auctioned off works from the Rockefeller collection, which at one point contained around 15,000 works. In May of 2018, the last of that collection were sold bringing in a staggering $835 million – $646 million of which came from a single sale. The Rockefellers then turned around and invested portions of those earning into the MoMA to support its endeavours and future.
This isn’t the first sizable donation the family has given to the MoMA, either. In 2005, Rockefeller gifted the museum $100 million standing as the largest single donation in the MoMA’s history. That donation was matched 11 years later when David Geffen, a collector and philanthropist, gave the same amount. The Rockefeller’s most recent gift, though, bring that back to the top of the MoMA’s donations charts.
In addition to being long-time financial supporters of the museum, the Rockefellers have a familial connection to the organization. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, mother of David Rockefeller, was a founding member of the MoMA in 1929 and served on their board as the inaugural treasurer until 1934. She also gave considerable donations to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters. David Rockefeller carried on this legacy serving on the MoMA’s board from 1948 until his death. During that time, he held the position of chairman while continuously supporting the museum.
Like his mother, who began collecting artworks in the mid-1920s, Rockefeller collected a substantial number of artworks in his own time. He did so with the help of Alfred Barr, founding director of the MoMA and brought together works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Henri Matisse. Today, the museum owns many of these works, which Rockefeller donated to the organization
In light of the ongoing support of the Rockefellers, financially and otherwise, the museum has renamed their directorship in honour of the family. Glenn Lowry, director of the MoMA, said the renaming was ‘an energizing and fitting tribute to celebrate David’s vision and passion for the museum’s mission and its collection.’