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Westchester Secret: Pablo Picasso Was Here

Gallery Five contains tapestries that are copies of Pablo Picasso's work.
Gallery Five contains tapestries that are copies of Pablo Picasso's work. Photo Credit: Karen Clark.

Who knew that an art collection rivaling the Metropolitan Museum of Art can be found in the basement of a Westchester home?

We're talking Picasso and Modern Artists Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, and Louise Nevelson.

And it's all inside the lower level of Kykuit, also known as the John D. Rockefeller Estate, a 3,400-acre site in Sleepy Hollow.

The residence was constructed for Rockefeller and his family in 1913 and is very much an ode to an artist’s heart with Italian-styled gardens and Beaux-Arts architecture. 

The National Historic Landmark housed four generations of Rockefellers including the ex-governor of New York and Ex-Vice President Nelson Rockefeller who commissioned the art gallery. Nelson Rockefeller’s parents—John D Rockefeller Jr. and Abigail Greene Aldrich—were art collectors, thus precipitating a love of art to him.

By the time he lived in the house, however, his parents’ collection was given to museums or scattered throughout the rest of the house.

Initial plans for the basement included a bowling alley, but five galleries to house art from some of the most known modern artists were created instead.

There are more than 100 paintings, prints, and sculptures permanently set in the gallery -- mostly 1960s and 1970s modern art including work by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and David Smith.

The most exclusive art, however, are the tapestries that line the walls in Gallery Five. These are copies of some of Picasso’s works commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller but permitted by Picasso himself.

Another collection of 20th-century sculptures can be found around the estate’s gardens.

Kykuit is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and maintained by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The 40-room mansion also acts as a public tour of sorts by Historic Hudson Valley offering guided tours of the house, the gardens, and the art galleries. Go to for more information. 

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