Nelson Rockefeller

MoMA notables standing in front of Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon at opening event.

Nelson Rockefeller (left) and other MoMA notables at an opening event, 1939.

Nelson Rockefeller was the grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, and son of Abby Rockefeller, founder of the Museum of Modern Art(MoMA). The arts had always been a part of Rockefeller’s life through his mother and his family background gave him financial, political, and social connections to promote worthy causes. The first use of art diplomacy by the U.S. was initiated by Rockefeller when he served as the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs under President Roosevelt.

Rockefeller’s greatest contribution to art diplomacy was his efforts to found and fund the International Program and International Council at MoMA. As President of the Board he oversaw the formation of the International Program in 1952 and the International Council in 1953; with the Program carrying out the activities set forth by the Council. Rockefeller also organized funding for the first five years through the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which he and his four brothers operated. The International Program and Council were necessary because the United States, unlike many other countries, did not adequately support the arts.

MOMA_1954_0036_35 IC Pres Release.pdf

Press Release Announcing the Formation of the International Council. The International Program and Council were created to compensate for the U.S. government's lack of support for art diplomacy. It was also hoped in 1952 that the Program and Council would get the government to support and one day operate its own art diplomacy initiative.