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A towering reminder of a patron of the arts: Chrysler

May 27, On This Day

A businessman and an art connoisseur


Exactly 91 years ago today, on May 27, 1930, the 1,046-foot (or 319-metre) Chrysler Building in New York City, the tallest man-made structure at the time, was opened to the public. The building was constructed by American automotive industry executive Walter Chrysler, the head of the Chrysler Corporation, and at the time it opened, there were mixed reviews of the building’s design, ranging from views of it as inane and unoriginal to the idea that it was modernist and iconic.


However, in 1935, Walter P. Chrysler Jr. became president of the Chrysler Building — and an important contributor to the world of art came into his own. Chrysler Jr had begun collecting art at 14 — a small watercolor landscape that featured an inch-high nude, painted by Renoir.

He went on to Dartmouth College, where he started an art magazine called Five Arts with a fellow student and future art collector, Nelson Rockefeller. On a grand tour of Europe, he also met Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, and other avant-garde artists in Paris. He bought works from each and soon amassed a large collection of modern art. He also bought works by significant American artists such as Charles Burchfield, John Marin, and Thomas Hart Benton.

In 1956, Chrysler retired fully from business life to devote himself to the arts. By this time, he had established a large art collection of not just paintings, but also amassed an 8,000-piece collection of glass with holdings of Art Nouveau and 19th-century American art glass. He served as the first chairman of the library committee at the iconic Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC, contributing resources on Dadaism and Surrealism.

In 1971, he donated most of his extensive collection to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Virginia.

Some of Chrysler’s most stunning amassed artworks:

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