Rockefeller Legacy Benefits Museum
Building on a long legacy of support from his family, David Rockefeller has made a gift of $2.5 million to fund and expand the RISD Museum’s collection of decorative arts and design. The new funding provides for an endowed curatorship to help care for the collection, along with $500,000 in support of a new David and Peggy Rockefeller Gallery within its suite of European art galleries in the Radeke building.
“When my late wife, Peggy, and I discussed the idea of creating a room to reflect our collecting interests, we thought immediately of RISD,” says Rockefeller. “Both sides of my family – Aldriches as well as Rockefellers – have had a long and happy relationship with the RISD Museum. My mother even took a few courses there in the late 19th century, before she married my father.”
Rockefeller also plans to give the museum 43 pieces from his family’s collection of rare furniture and decorative arts, including silver serving pieces and European porcelain. One exceptionally stunning gift is an 8th-century Tang dynasty figure of a standing court lady that was displayed for years in Rockefeller’s office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
“We are thrilled that Mr. Rockefeller has chosen to share treasures from his collection with us,” says Museum Director John W. Smith. “Their beauty and rarity will add immeasurably to our already impressive collection of decorative arts and design, and fill voids – particularly in our collection of English works – with objects of a quality we could never otherwise hope to acquire.”
Elizabeth A. Williams, who joined the museum’s curatorial staff in 2013, is now its first David and Peggy Rockefeller Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. She plans to make good use of the new resources by continuing to expand exhibition and education programs and further preservation and conservation efforts. Since the collection under her care is heavily used by students and faculty at RISD, Brown and other nearby colleges, she is committed to presenting an interpretative approach that encourages deep engagement with the objects.
Williams is particularly excited about a pair of soft-paste porcelain river gods made by the French Vincennes manufactory. Extremely rare, these pieces are from the collection of Rockefeller’s aunt, a longtime Providence resident. The family’s huge Qing Dynasty service of ornate Chinese exportware porcelain is also a welcomed addition and considered one of the finest examples of its kind.
“With this generous gift, David Rockefeller continues his family’s nearly century-long relationship with the RISD Museum,” notes Smith, “once again making significant and lasting contributions to the museum and Rhode Island. It is rare for a museum to be able to share with one family such a long and important history of generosity.”
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