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The Promised Gift

On View
January 24, 2024

West Gallery
A project in The Making of a Museum: 50 Years exhibition

The Promised Gift tells the story of Roy R. Neuberger’s 1969 grand and optimistic philanthropic contribution, a gift of 300 works of art to the State University of New York. 

In the summer of 1967, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller invited Roy R. and Marie Neuberger to his Pocantico family estate north of Manhattan for lunch. Rockefeller, the conceptual architect of the State University of New York system, had long been heavily involved in the arts. His mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, was one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

According to Roy Neuberger, during the visit Rockefeller “made a very strong pitch for my giving a substantial portion of my collection, [saying] that he would name a museum-to-be in Purchase in Westchester County” on what would become one of the SUNY campuses. Not long after, Neuberger heard the vision for Purchase College and the museum to be built there from SUNY Chancellor Samuel B. Gould and Abbott Kaplan, who was to become the first president of the College. “It was a new concept, and it was absolutely inspiring to me…. It would be both an educational institution and a cultural center for a large population in Westchester plus Greenwich.” Purchase College would train students in both the liberal arts and the arts with a world-class museum as well as what Neuberger referred to as “a miniature Lincoln Center.”

Neuberger believed that the mission of the college was “very much in line with [his] whole philosophy of purchasing art,” since one of his motives had been to encourage young artists. In September 1969, Neuberger made a promised gift of 302 works to be donated over the following decade. The gift was considered highly unusual for a public university. Milton Avery’s Sunday Riders was the very first object to be accessioned into the collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art.

The Promised Gift, now on view in the Museum’s West Gallery as part of The Making of a Museum: 50 Years exhibition, features Sunday Riders, along with a selection of the works included in that initial gift to found the Museum.

Generous financial support for The Making of a Museum: 50 Years exhibition has been provided by ArtsWestchester, with funding made possible by Westchester County government with the support of County Executive George Latimer; the Purchase College Foundation; and the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art.

Additional support for Neuberger Museum of Art exhibitions and programs has been provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.