The Great Migrator

The Great Migrator

Robert Rauschenberg and the Global Rise of American Art

By Hiroko Ikegami

Robert Rauschenberg on tour in 1964 and the early globalization of the art world.





Robert Rauschenberg on tour in 1964 and the early globalization of the art world.

In 1964, Robert Rauschenberg, already a frequent transatlantic traveler, became even more peripatetic, joining the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as costume and set designer for its first world tour. Rauschenberg and the company visited thirty cities in fourteen countries throughout Europe and Asia. During the tour, he not only devised sets and costumes but also enacted his own performances and created works of art, often using local materials and collaborating with local art communities.

In The Great Migrator, Hiroko Ikegami examines Rauschenberg's activities abroad and charts the increasing international dominance of American art during that period. Unlike other writers, who have viewed the export of American art during the 1950s and 1960s as another form of Cold War propagandizing (and famous American artists as cultural imperialists), Ikegami sees the global rise of American art as a cross-cultural phenomenon in which each art community Rauschenberg visited was searching in different ways for cultural and artistic identity in the midst of Americanization. Rauschenberg's travels and collaborations established a new kind of transnational network for the postwar art world—prefiguring the globalization of art before the era of globalization. Ikegami focuses on Rauschenberg's stops in four cities: Paris, Venice (where he became the first American to win the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale), Stockholm, and Tokyo. In each city, she tells us, Rauschenberg's work encountered both enthusiasm and resistance (which was often a reaction against American power). Ikegami's account offers a fresh, nonbinary perspective on the global and the local.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262014250 296 pp. | 7.5 in x 9 in 14 color illus., 68, b&w illus.


$25.00 T ISBN: 9780262526111 296 pp. | 7.5 in x 9 in 14 color illus., 68, b&w illus.


  • Ikegami's book offers not one but two significant interventions into the scholarship of modern and contemporary art. The first lies in the author's archival recovery of key primary source materials from Venice, Stockholm, and Japan. The second concerns the construction and reconstruction of a global/transnational history of art, an enterprise that is no longer simply modern or American but migrates freely between established conceptual and historiographical categories. This study helps to pave the way forward for a methodologically evolving field that takes a global perspective on world art history. And in this context, Rauschenberg emerges as 'the great migrator'—a uniquely powerful figure of transience, transformation, and transnationalism.

    Marcia Brennan

    Associate Professor of Art History, Rice University; author of Curating Consciousness: Mysticism and the Modern Museum

  • Offering a pre-history of the global contemporary, Ikegami traces Rauschenberg's tour with the Cunningham dance troupe in the mid-1960s to articulate the explosive impact, xenophilic embrace, and paranoid protectionism stimulated by American art abroad. This is a pioneering work of transnational art history, packed with juicy details and meticulously researched across Europe and into Japan.

    Caroline Jones

    Director of History, Theory, and Criticism Program at MIT