Gifts for the Season! Christmas2018

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Archives of American Art announces pivotal gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, (the Archives) today announced it has received a $5 million gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation to create an endowment to process and digitize material on art and artists from historically underrepresented groups in the Archives’ collections and the American canon, making them broadly available online. African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and women are typically underrepresented in U.S. museum collections.

The gift is among the largest in the history of the Archives and builds on the commitment the Foundation made in June with its announcement of a promised gift to the Archives of the expansive Roy Lichtenstein Foundation records and Roy Lichtenstein papers comprising more than 500 linear feet.

Highlights of materials already in the Archives’ collections that will be prioritized for processing and digitization using proceeds from the endowment include:

• The scrapbook of Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828?1901), one of a few African American painters of the 19th century to win national recognition.

• The papers of Jeff Donaldson (1932?2004), one of the co-founders, in 1968, of the artists collective the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA).

• The papers of renowned African American painter, printmaker, and teacher Charles W. White (1918?1979).

• The records of the Cinque Gallery founded in 1969 by artists Romare Bearden (1911–1988), Ernest Crichlow (1914–2005), and Norman Lewis (1909–1979) to exhibit the work of both new and established African American artists.

• The Tomás Ybarra-Frausto research material on Chicano art, the Archives’ most frequently consulted collection for the study of Latino art.

• The voluminous papers of ceramic artist and educator Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011).

Since its establishment 64 years ago, the Archives has been committed to diversifying and broadening its collections and making them publicly accessible online. While the Archives has one of the most ambitious digitization programs in the world, the process requires time and meticulous attention to detail. Thus, to date, the Archives has been able to process only about 13 percent of its collections, which are continually expanding.

The timely gift, which helps to match a generous challenge grant to endow digitization at the Archives made by the Terra Foundation for American Art in 2016, brings the Archives' digitization endowment to more than $11 million, securing a robust future for the program. It also ensures that women and people of color will represent a greater proportion of the Archives’ processing and digitization activity going forward.

“The Archives of American Art has been committed to diversity in its collections since our early years, beginning with the acquisition of Horace Pippin’s illustrated World War I memoir in 1958," said Kate Haw, director of the Archives of American Art. "Since then, we have worked to build strength in collections focused on historically underrepresented art and artists and to make these collections available to a worldwide audience, but we need to do more. This extraordinary gift reinforces our work to add to our existing collections on underrepresented artists and enables us to share an ever more inclusive story of American art globally. The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation’s wonderful generosity will lead to further research in under-recognized areas of our field, future exhibitions, and publications, connecting people everywhere with the stories of a wider range of artists. We are profoundly grateful to the Foundation for their vision and support.”

Dorothy Lichtenstein, president of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, said, “We are delighted to support the Archives of American Art and the processing and digitization of materials related to these important artists. We applaud institutions like the Archives that open their virtual doors wide and invite the world in. Having this diversity of treasures available online will allow students, scholars, and art-lovers to explore and expand on the remarkable network of connections and associations across the vibrant arc of American art history.”

The Archives will begin processing and digitizing material under this endowment in early 2019.

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Bruce Museum receives promised gift of major collection of Native American art

GREENWICH, CONN.- The Bruce Museum announced the promised gift of a highly significant collection of Native American baskets, textiles, and ceramics, to be donated to the Museum by Mr. and Mrs. Jay W. Chai of Riverside, CT. The Museum’s Executive Director, Peter C. Sutton, expressed his abiding gratitude. He characterized it as “a truly transformative gift.”

The donation will build on the foundation of ethnographic material given to the Museum in 1967 by Greenwich resident Margaret Cranford and will enhance the Bruce Museum’s standing as a regional resource for scholars and aficionados of Native American material culture.

The Museum's ethnology collection focuses on objects of peoples from the Americas and reflects the sophistication and diversity of the various cultures represented. The Native American collection is particularly strong in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Southwest material, including Navajo textiles and jewelry, Pueblo blackware, and Plains beadwork. Baskets, tools and clothing come from Plains, Southwest and Northwest Coast peoples. Prehistoric material from the Northeast rounds out the collection since the Bruce Museum is the repository for archaeological material excavated in Greenwich.

A selection of 13 Native American baskets from the promised gift is now on view in the Museum’s rotunda, as a timely complement to the exhibition A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. The exhibition showcases a dozen Navajo textiles from the Museum’s Native American ethnographic collection, as well as biographical material about Miss Margaret Cranford. The exhibition will be on display in the Bantle Lecture Gallery through November 25.

“The documented and verifiable provenance of notable objects in this gift strengthens the Bruce’s existing collection and provides innumerable avenues for interpretation and research,” says Kirsten Reinhardt, Bruce Museum Registrar and Curator of the Navajo Weaving Traditions exhibition.

Looking toward the future, the Bruce Museum plans to offer an exhibition featuring significant pieces in the Chai collection to further its mission to promote the understanding and appreciation of art and science to enrich the lives of all people.


Rockefeller Gifts Bring Indian Art Home to Southwest

Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Mesa Verde National Park Receive Major Gifts of Indian Art

CCP Staff - October 19, 2018

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado announced on October 18, 2018, that they have received major gifts of Native American Art from the Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller, which has been held by the David Rockefeller Estate. Many of the works were originally acquired in the 1920s and 1930s by David Rockefeller’s parents John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. In recent years, David and Peggy Rockefeller added important antique and contemporary works to the collection. David Rockefeller died in 2017.

Ten days of Christie’s auctions in May 2018 offered 1,500 European, American, and Asian artworks from the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection. The sales grossed $832.6 million, the highest auction total ever for a private collection, all of which was distributed among twelve charities. Rockefeller’s Native American art and artifacts, of less intrinsic value but great personal importance, were reserved for direct donation to the MFA and the National Park Service’s Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum.

Jesse Nusbaum and the Building of Mesa Verde National Park

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The Rockefeller Estate gifts to Mesa Verde Park reflect John D. Rockefeller’s personal commitment to the park at a key time in its development, and his friendship with its superintendent, archaeologist Jesse Nusbaum. Nusbaum, who was appointed superintendent in 1921 at age 32, had actually worked surveying and photographing ruins there as early as 1907, later completing the Balcony House work for journalist and pioneering preservationist Virginia McClurg.

Nusbaum described the condition of the park and its staff when he inherited it as an “unholy mess,” where nepotism reigned and staff and their families illegally excavated and sold pots from ruins. Facilities for visitors were negligible, and the locals used the park as a place for roistering and drinking. Resisting attempts by local politicians to conciliate the locals, Nusbaum fired the worst of the staff and moved himself and his wife to Mesa Verde, where he built a Hopi-style home, made his own Spanish-colonial style furniture, and when the snows came, they wintered there alone, doing archaeological work in the park. Nusbaum first reduced, then ended grazing in the park, halting the already limited coal-mining, and built catchments to try and regularize water access.

Not satisfied with stabilizing and protecting the land, Nusbaum also developed a professional administration for visitors to the park, regulating entry and access, putting up signs to keep people off of ruins, and creating campgrounds. In fact, thanks to the proliferation of the American automobile, the park was already becoming seasonally overcrowded. Mesa Verde remained an educational experience, unlike the purely playground atmosphere of some other national parks. Nusbaum delivered lectures for the public in the evening, and soon involved the many Navajo laborers, who formed 90% of the workforce, in doing evening “sings.”

While his relationship with the neighboring Utes was more difficult, Nusbaum felt sympathy with the Navajo’s harsh lives, and built hogans for the park workers to make them more comfortable. His wife, a nurse, treated workers and visitors for injuries and after much lobbying, in 1926, the federal government authorized tents and finally a small hospital.

Nusbaum had to constantly fight off attempts by local politicians to influence its management. When a politician supported by the Ku Klux Klan came to the park, the group asked to use the site for an initiation ceremony and invited Nusbaum to join the group; he armed his men with axe handles and told the Klan to “get out.” The park’s “museum” was a poorly maintained log cabin when Nusbaum arrived; it was run by a local who claimed that the displays belonged to him. Nusbaum forced the man to give up the keys, and as soon as his own house was built, Nusbaum began working on a museum that would be fireproof and could safely hold a larger collection.

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Nusbaum Made Rockefeller a Partner in Park Development and Archaeology

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. first arrived Mesa Verde National Park on July 3, 1924, with his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and sons John III, Nelson, and Laurance. The trip to Mesa Verde was in many ways a typical outing for both moneyed and ordinary American travelers, but Nusbaum was focused on bringing in the Rockefellers as park sponsors and supporters. He gave the Rockefeller family a personal tour of the park and its impressive sites; they visited the museum, and Nusbaum’s wife Aileen produced a pageant for their entertainment.

Rockefeller was immensely impressed with Nusbaum and the work that he and Aileen had done. Rockefeller donated funds to build a four-room section of the museum, now known as the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, which were architecturally designed to blend into the site, an innovation that led the way for later park buildings throughout the Southwest.

Rockefeller also funded the archaeological work that Nusbaum undertook in the quiet months of winter. Nusbaum rarely had professionally trained staff, so he taught his local workers archaeological skills himself. In Rockefeller-funded excavations from 1924 to 1929, Nusbaum was able to gain far greater understanding of the Anasazi peoples and recover important materials for the park museum.

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Rockefeller Gift to Mesa Verde Museum

The Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum received over 100 works of “Native American Culture, by Native American artists, including pieces by tribal community members traditionally associated with Mesa Verde National Park.”

The gifts to the museum include a Navajo (Diné) rug with the woven initials J.D.R.; pots by San Ildefonso artist Maria Montoya Martinez (Poveka) and her husband Julian Martinez; wood sculptures by John Louis Clarke, and paintings by artists of the Taos School, including Eanger Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp.

The Gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In the case of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA), the gift of 52 works by artists from 13 Native American tribes and nations is particularly timely. The MFA has stated that its Native American collection had been understudied and largely left in store for decades. To remedy the situation, the museum has recently begun a “renewal of its commitment to the collection, interpretation and display” of Native American art. The gifts from the Rockefeller collection to the MFA includes Plains beadwork, Navajo rugs, pottery, watercolors and baskets.

The Boston museum’s Art of the Americas wing opened in 2011. In giving new attention to the MFA’s early Native American acquisitions. Its galleries do not so much present a timeline as a narrative about development and change, for example, showing pottery of the ancient Mississippi Mound Builders and the overtly contemporary ceramics of Cochiti Pueblo, Berkeley, UCLA and Parson-trained Diego Romero.

The MFA’s current exhibition, “Collecting Stories: NativeAmerican Art,” documents the early years of MFA collecting after the museum opened in 1876. This exhibition tells as much about many other U.S. museums as it does the MFA, as it explores the justification for relegating Native American materials to anthropology and natural history museums during much of the 20th century. In recovering Native American materials from obscurity and giving them pride of place in fine arts museums, the MFA says that, “As both works of art and souvenirs, these objects initially fit into the MFA’s educational mission to represent art in all media and from all cultures.”

Because the group of Native American objects gifted to MFA Boston and Mesa Verde from the David Rockefeller Estate were displayed in the Mt. Desert Island property in Maine, the collection is new to the public. Its display at Mesa Verde will now enable many Americans to see this part of U.S. art history and archaeology together in the landscape that inspired it.

Online MFA Collection Tour: Native North American Art

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MFA Boston receives gift of Native American art from Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller

BOSTON, MASS.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has announced the gift of the Estate of David Rockefeller from the Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller—an acquisition comprising 52 works of art by Native American artists and works representing Native American culture. The objects in this cornerstone gift were assembled primarily by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in the 1920s and 1930s, and include Plains beadwork, Navajo (Diné) weavings and rugs, Nez Perce cornhusk bags and one Taos School painting, as well as pottery, watercolors and baskets by a variety of artists from 13 Native American tribes and nations. Later works in the collection were added by their son David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy.

The MFA is one of two institutions to receive a gift of Native American art from the Estate of David Rockefeller, along with the Mesa Verde National Park Museum in Colorado, which John D. Rockefeller, Jr., helped to sponsor in the 1920s. At the MFA, these objects present an opportunity to add greater depth and breadth to the existing collection. The acquisition is part of the Museum’s renewed commitment to the collection, interpretation and display of Native American art, as reflected in the ongoing exhibition Collecting Stories: Native American Art; the Native North America Gallery in the Art of the Americas Wing; and recent installations of Native American works in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.

“This gift represents the remarkable legacy of the Rockefeller family as leading art collectors and as land preservationists, both on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, where their Native American collection was displayed, and widely across the United States. 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,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “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. By strengthening the Museum’s collection in this critical area, this gift marks an important step forward.”

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller acquired the core of the gift during their travels throughout the American West in the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., became active in the growing land conservation movement in the U.S. and sponsored projects related to Native American art and anthropology in the Southwest. The Rockefellers purchased and later donated thousands of acres of land for the National Park Service at this time, including at Grand Teton National Park, while simultaneously collecting Native American art during the course of their travels. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., purchased objects directly from a number of artists, including renowned potter Maria Montoya Martinez (Poveka or Water Pond Lily) (1887–1980, San Ildefonso Pueblo) and her husband, Julian Martinez (1885–1943, San Ildefonso Pueblo)—acquiring some of the first blackware pottery they ever made. Rockefeller’s son, David, met Maria Martinez on his first visit to the Southwest as a child in 1926, part of a 10,000-mile tour of the American West with his parents and brothers.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller became particularly interested in contemporary watercolors by Velino Shije Herrera (Ma-Pe-Wi) (1902–1973, Zia Pueblo), Tonita Peña (Quah Ah) (1893–1949, San Ildefonso Pueblo) and Awa Tsireh (Alfonso Roybal) (1898–1955), among others. Smoking Pipe (about 1926), an oil painting by famed Taos School artist Eanger Irving Couse (1866–1936), was purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1926.

“These gifts of Native American art add a new dimension to the MFA’s collection and allow us to envision displays in our 19th- and 20th-century galleries where Native American art will enter into compelling dialogues with our renowned collection of American painting and decorative arts,” said Dennis Carr, Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture. “The MFA’s efforts to collect Native American art began in the 1870s, shortly after the Museum opened to the public, but then diminished in the decades after the 1910s. These objects, which were made or collected during the 1920s and 1930s, are an important complement to our current collection.”

The objects being donated to the MFA and Mesa Verde National Park were part of a collection of Native American art displayed in the “Rest House,” located on the Rockefeller family’s property on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. After John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s, death in 1960, his son David inherited most of his father’s properties in Maine, as well as his parents’ collection of Native American art, which he and Peggy left on view in the Rest House until his death in 2017.

“The immersive quality of the ‘Rest House’ collection, with its mixture of textiles, pottery, basketry and paintings, exemplifies a fashionable way to display Native American art in the early 20th century. Because the Rest House was a private family retreat, the collection has remained a lesser-known aspect of the Rockefeller family’s collecting and specifically of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s artistic sensibility,” said Pam Parmal, Chair and David and Roberta Logie Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts. “We are pleased to provide a public acknowledgement of this important contribution.”