Ten years ago, I had the honor of spending a couple of hours at the Museum of Modern Art with David Rockefeller. At the time, he was 90 and was in a league by himself; one of the great collectors, philanthropists and business leaders of his time.
MoMA closed off the upstairs galleries that house their original core collections of all the great Impressionist artists from the turn of the century. Rooms of Monet, Renoir, Picasso, etc. Mr. Rockefeller explained to me that these paintings decorated the home in which he grew up. His mother was one of the most prescient collectors of her day of what was then known as “modern art.”
Mr. Rockefeller explained to me how his mother gave her collection to the Museum of Modern Art in its early years, and how it became the core collection of the new museum.
I was particularly moved by his story of a certain painting, which he said hung on the wall across from his crib, and how one of his earliest recollections was of being scared of the painting. As he proudly explained the current importance of the painting to MoMA’s collections you could easily tell that he had been dreaming about and studying the painting for his entire life.
For a very modest and quiet man, David Rockefeller left a very big footprint on the cultural landscape of our country. He passed away yesterday at 101, RIP.