HarperCollins, $34.99, 448 pages
Suzanne Loebl’s America’s Medicis celebrates the myriad contributions of generations of Rockefellers to the public enjoyment of art. It’s not quite the book one might expect from the Medici reference as much of the power behind the family’s acquisition of wealth, and just how some art, not to mention the site selected for Rockefeller Center, was acquired, is not addressed. But the Medici did do wonderful things for the arts in their time, and the Rockefellers have certainly done that for the modern world. Loebl focuses on the fortune of the Rockefellers and how they chose to dispose of much of it.
The book is mainly a chronology of the family’s rise and the major collections and endowments they created. There is no denying the significance of the Rockefellers to the cultural life of the country: Rockefeller Center, MoMA, the Cloisters, Colonial Williamsburg and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum of American Folk Art, Lincoln Center and the Nelson Rockefeller Empire State Mall. Loebl also looks at endowments: to Dartmouth, Vassar, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and numerous others. The layout of each chapter is consistent: some background on the relevant Rockefellers involved, a construction history of the building(s), and a few comments regarding the pieces on display. In essence, the author says it best when she says “America’s artistic landscape would be totally different were it not for the Rockefellers.”
Reviewed by Johanna Bettis