Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"I'm out of politics said Nelson Rockefeller emphatically as he autographed a $30-copy of a book of color photographs of his primitive art collection, "and into art."
And as he greeted guests arriving for a cocktail party at Neiman-Marcus Wednesday night to kick off the sale of reproductions from his collections, he quickly adapted his political skills at the realm of art.
"Aren't you nice to come!" he heartily welcomed guests in the department store's gift gallery where his reproductions are displayed.
"Como estas?" he asked Spanish-speakers, mainly ambassadors from the Latin American embassies, and then launched into conversation in Spanish. He squeezed shoulders, kissed cheeks and clinked wine glasses in a toast with the ambassador from Paraguay. Dr. Mario Lopez Escobar, a few feet away from gleaming reproductions of his 17th-century Meisen procelain.
"They're some beautiful Benin bronzes from the other side of your continent," he said to John P. Mbogua, the ambassador of the Republic of Kenya, and his wife, as they arrived.
"I gave my entire African collection to a wing in the Met," he told them, growing more serious. "I've been trying for four years to get African art accepted as equal with the other art at the Met. The finally wised up."
To the ambassador from Japan, Fumihiko Togo, and his wife, Rockefeller said, "I have a cat my mother bought from Japan (reproduced in the collection). I want you to know the cat and a Japanese primitive head sold more than anything else. The cat is around here somewhere . . ."
The cat, a copy of a simple-lined sleeping cat originally made in wood in the 18th century, is a big seller at $125, Neiman-Marcus saleswoman Diana DeVere confirmed. So is a light-colored graceful crane with its neck twisting in a loop, at $225.
"You see that crane over there . . ." began Rockefeller, pointing as he talked with Mexican Ambassador Hugo Margain and his wife, Marguerita. The fast-selling crane is a reproduction of a Mexican folk art object.
"I think it's wonderful that this collection can be made available," said American University President Joseph J. Sisco, a friend of Rockefeller's. Sisco said he would buy the crane. Then as an afterthought he added, "There's one more thing I want to say. This idea and this collection is very characteristic of Nelson Rockefeller. He's always looking for something new and fresh."
Korean Ambassador Yongshik Kim beamed after a brief exchange with Rockefeller. "This is a great party," he said smiling, and then chuckled on what Rockefeller had just told him. "They spent their honeymoon in Korea."