Saturday, December 11, 2010

Suzanne Loebl's "America’s Medicis"

Suzanne Loebl's first book, Fighting The Unseen: The Story of Viruses, earned her a Sloan Science Writing Fellowship at the School of Journalism, Columbia University. Since then, she has written fourteen books. Her America's Art Museum's: A Travelers' Guide to Great Collections Large and Small prompted some people to tour America in search of art.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, America's Medicis: The Rockefellers and Their Astonishing Cultural Legacy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of America’s Medicis deals with the construction of Rockefeller Center, a time when “‘modern’ architecture had not yet completely arrived. Many skyscrapers were still overly tall houses whose walls rose from the ground in overly straight planes…. Junior hoped that the architecture of his Center would reflect his favorite Gothic style…” but he was talked out of it. During most of its construction period (1929-39) the architectural community derided the novel building complex that combined office space with shops, restaurants and theaters—a forerunner of the future shopping mall, but in the end it was universally acclaimed urban masterpiece of Art Deco. Even Jane Jacobs, the crusader for livable cities, approved of it.

America’s Medicis is the history of the cultural donations of two generations of Rockefellers, which unlike the family’s philanthropic gifts were not carefully planned. Therefore they are much more representational of the personal tastes of the donors as well as of the opportunities that came their way. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.—Junior—built The Cloisters because George Grey Barnard had shipped the remnants of destroyed and neglected medieval ruins from Europe to America. His wife Abby co-founded MoMA in part because she wanted to help struggling, contemporary artists, Like many Americans the Rockefellers became entranced with Asian art and we have their collections, at the Asia Society, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Maine, Chinese porcelains and religious art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Japanese prints at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design and at the Philadelphia Museum. John D. Rockefeller III was asked to chair the development of the controversial Lincoln Center and fifteen years later New York city had a performance Center. The Rockefellers were good at choosing the collaborators: Alfred Barr, James Rorimer, Sherman Lee, and many others who helped to shape their gifts into influential, and or beautiful institutions.
Learn more about the book and author at Suzanne Loebl's website.

--Marshal Zeringue