This morning, I made my way to the Oceanic Art Galleries at the Met, also known as the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing; just days before it will be closing its doors for three years for the occasion of renovation, it is the perfect time to rediscover this special, one of my favorite areas of the Met. This wing, a sweet place of silence and refuge presents three major world traditions: Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa, and ancient America.
Inauguarated in 1982, the wing was named after Michael Clark Rockefeller (1938- 1961), the fifth child of New York Governor and future U.S. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and a fourth-generation member of the Rockefeller family. In 1961, he famously disappeared while on expedition in the Asmat region of Southwestern Netherlands New Guinea, now a part of the Indonesian province of Papua, and was never found.
When it will reopen in 2024, the Wing will allow the three major world traditions to stand as independent entities in a wing that functions as a dynamic nexus in dialogue with neighboring spaces. The redefinition of the galleries will underscore distinct architectural vernaculars relevant to the three collection areas. The planned installations will elucidate artworks’ aesthetic qualities, tether them to historical and cultural movements, highlight individual authors and the provenance of specific artifacts, introduce commentary by leading public intellectuals in diverse fields, and provide greater clarity and accessibility to visitors. This project is informed by extensive archival and field research as well as international dialogue, including a series of scholarly workshops.
This is the last weekend that the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing will be open before its closing its doors. All images courtesy of the Met; above, Ritual Seat for a Noble (Osa' osa), 19th century.