Friday, December 2, 2011

How the Theater Inspired Me to Check Out Some Asmat Art

Early last Sunday morning, I waited outside the Neue Galerie inhaling the fresh autumn air waiting for Cafe Sabarsky to open. My plan was to have a early German breakfast and then head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to take in the Stieglitz and Bearden exhibits. Oh yeah and also check out the Michael C. Rockefeller wing since I made a mental note to do so after seeing Jeff Cohen's The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller last year Off Broadway.

Many of the works in the area of the wing photographed above were collected by Michael Rockefeller (the youngest son of Nelson Rockefeller) during his expeditions to the Asmat region of New Guinea in the early 1960s. According to a write up at the museum "Michael Rockefeller's purpose was to record, and preserve the art of this remarkable culture, to document the context of its creation, and to understand it creators." In November 1961, while on expedition, Michael Rockefeller's boat overturned and his body was never found. According to Wikipedia, he was declared legally dead in 1964.

Since the Asmat people supposedly practiced cannibalism, there was much speculation about Michael Rockefeller's death. Jeff Cohen's play based on a short story by Christopher Stokes gives voice to the Asmat people and imagines how Michael Rockefeller was received by this tribe. The fictional play was done with humor and was well acted and quite entertaining. It also made me want to return to the Met and view Asmat art.

I suppose we will never know what really happened to Michael Rockefeller. However, what he has collected and left behind at the tender age of 23, is a pretty amazing and worth a trip to the Upper East side to explore.

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