Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection

The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection has been heralded as “the greatest collection of modern American art in any single public site that is not a museum.”

Following a procedure that was established during the construction of Rockefeller Center, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller assembled a commission of art experts to select work for the Plaza and personally signed off on each acquisition. Ninety-two pieces of monumental “New York School” art—paintings, sculptures, and tapestries—were acquired for the collection, sixteen of which were commissioned for specific sites on the complex.

The collection includes noted artists such as Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Nevelson, Clyfford Still, Isamu Noguchi, Joan Mitchell, and Alexander Calder. Charcoal Black and Tan, painted by Franz Kline in 1959, demonstrates how he deliberated over his pieces and reworked them repeatedly as seen in some areas where the paint is built up and colors are mixed together. Kline, like other Abstract Expressionists, were often called “gesture painters” because they often applied paint in quick, emotionally expressive strokes, usually without direct reference to recognizable imagery. Kline retained his powerful, sweeping style up to his death in 1962.

 

Magnifying Glass
Charcoal Black and Tan
Franz Kline
1959
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of New York State Office of General Services, Bureau of Curatorial & Tour Services
Magnifying Glass
Empire State Plaza
c. 2015
Digital photograph
Courtesy of New York State Office of General Services, Bureau of  Curatorial & Tour Services