Tag Archives: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Forever Mine

I won a cup. My enthusiasm for this gift would spill over its small confines and the fact that I have one has made me yearn for another. Two more, actually, which is my friend’s fault as she mentioned, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have three on the mantle?” Curses.

Seeped in Midwestern niceness, it seems too much to ask, so I have not filled out another request form. I have a little fantasy that at the end of the exhibit they will have just one left and I would actually be doing them a favor by offering to take it “forever.”

Emily Evans Eerdmans and I spent a lovely day together last weekend and I drove her by the old house, which has large taupe paint swatches on the living room walls, and to the Nelson to see the Twomey “Forever” exhibit among other things.

As Emily filled out her form I overheard a woman, about my age, explaining to the staff person that her son would take her cup upon her passing and that he had agreed to keep the cup forever as well. He looked up nodding earnestly.

When I surveyed the troops, all 1,345 cups (representative of the number of pieces in the Burnap collection, from which the inspiration of the cup was taken) it was difficult to not be impressed with the size of the original gift, with the significance its donors gave it and their belief that the collection would have value in perpetuity.

“Who remembers?” asked Mr. Blandings. “Who remembers what?” “That the entire collection has to be kept forever.” “They write things down.” But I wonder if that dark-haired boy, or any of my own, will remember such a promise as he sifts and sorts. Forever is a very long time.
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As I savor Freedom, I am also anticipating Forever. Forever is Clare Twomey’s first solo exhibit in the United States, opening at the Nelson-Atkins Museum October 9th.

Twomey had been in Kansas City visiting the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute when she had the opportunity to view the Burnap Collection of English ceramics. The collection, 1345 pieces, is the largest outside of England.

One of the things that intrigued Twomey was the permanence of the Burnaps’ gift, “in trust forever.” Which brings to the forefront of our minds the significance of the intent of the gift coupled with the fragility of the pieces themselves.

If you are familiar with Twomey’s work (I was not), you know that several of her exhibits have been interactive. Consciousness/Conscience, above, was an installation involving 7000 hollow cast bone china tiles created to be destroyed.

Trophy included 4000 Wedgwood Jasper Blue clay birds scattered about Clay Courts that were taken by the audience.

And, Blossom was comprised of thousands of fragile ceramic flowers left to decompose out of doors.
Forever, too, allows the audience to interject itself into the exhibit. Twomey will install 1345 scaled-down replicas of an 18th century caudle cup from the Burnap collection at the Nelson. Visitors will have the opportunity to apply for ownership of one of the pieces. Each cup will be unique and numbered and the applicants must choose a specific cup in their requests. It’s interesting to consider the responsibility the owners will have to their cups as the Nelson has had to the Collection. The cups will go home with their new caretakers when the exhibit closes January 2nd.
Top three images courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; remaining images courtesy of claretwomey.com.
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Monet & Moore

In first grade last year (ok, it was only two weeks ago) the youngest Blandings enjoyed the Merry Month of Monet.
May is a merry month, but I wondered how much he would absorb as we were all beginning to turn our faces from school toward pool. But he was quite engaged and wanted to know if we could see a “real” Monet. (Enough of this picture book nonsense.) As well as being merry, May is busy, so we did not make it to the Nelson to see their Monets until last week. Let me tell you, when you are little, that massive Water Lilies is really something else. As was watching him move in to look close and then back up to see clearly. I do think sometimes we make the guards nervous.
After we left the Impressionists behind we headed out to the grounds to see the sculpture park. On the lawn, there is an allee with these wonderful trees (yes, help please) that have the sweetest scent.
Both buildings are stunning, inside and out, and it was such a treat to be able to run at the museum.
P.S. Special thanks to the reader who called to my attention to the Calder sculpture on the East side; it was a hit. The title of the post refers to the many Henry Moore sculptures on the lawn.
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Don’t miss the Edward Steichen exhibit at the Nelson that is opening Saturday. This is not one for the kiddies (though Egypt certainly is) but better with a like-minded someone. Like someone who minds fashion or jewelry or celebrities or photography.

These photos are from Steichen’s Conde Nast years (1923 – 1937) and while he had made a name for himself in the art world, a divorce, the resulting need for cash and a muddled outlook (see how this all seems random, but is actually like pearls on a string?) made Conde Nast’s offer to be the chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair look like a good gig.

The exhibit is beautifully installed and you can see Steichen’s quick transition away from the dreamy techniques of his predecessor, Adolph de Meyer, to a crisper, cleaner and more dramatic style. Less gray. More black and white.

As those of us who take an interest in interiors have at least a passing acquaintance with fashion and art, the exhibit will have broad appeal. While most of the shots have striking backdrops a few claim Conde Nast’s or Helena Rubinstein’s apartment as their settings. And they are something to see. Even a clothes dummy like me stared in awe at the talent of Chanel and Schiaparelli. Did I mention the jewelry?

Saturday the 15th through July 25th. I’m also planning on attending Chanel and Her Rivals: Fashion in the Age of Steichen on June 12th from 1 – 2 by fashion historian Dr. Valerie Steele of FIT. April Watson, the Associate Curator of Photography at the Nelson, gave the tour yesterday and I think you would enjoy her presentation as well. She’ll speak Friday, June 18th from 7 -8 on Steichen’s influence on fashion and glamour.

While admission to the Nelson is always free, and most of the exhibits are as well, this is a ticketed exhibit for non-members. $8 for adults, $5 for students. For more information on the exhibit and all the events, click here.
This exhibit has been organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis; and the Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne; in collaboration with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo. The exhibit here is supported by the Campbell-Calvin Fund and Elizabeth C. Bonner Charitable Trust for exhibitions. All images Edward Steichen and all are copyright Conde Nast Publications. From top, Joan Crawford wearing Schiaparelli, 1932; Lee Miller wearing a dress by Jay-Thorpe and a necklace by Marcus, 1928; Marlene Dietrich, 1934; Gary Cooper, 1930 and Ilka Chase, 1933. I have scanned the images so a few are cropped differenly than the originals.
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Glass Castle

Cristiano Bianchin, Urna, Raccoglitore di Pensiero (Urn,Thought Collector), 2007.  Hand-blown, ground and polished glass with wood, crocheted hemp and steel, 13 x 8 ⅝   x 8 ⅝  in.
“I wish I could see a real Alexander Calder sculpture,” mused the middle as he lay on his stomach, chin in hand, looking at Calder’s Universe.  His interest had been piqued again upon finishing The Calder Game.  “We can.”  “We can?”  “Here?”  “Yes, right here.”  And not that day, but a day that closely followed we went to the Nelson to see one of Calder’s mobiles.  (It says it’s a mobile, but looks like a stabile to me. But what do I know?)
Laura de Santillana, Tokyo-ga (Caffe/Nero-Aqua), 2008. Hand-blown glass, 12 ⅜  x 8 ⅞  x 1 ¾  in.
We marched in, up the gradually sloping floor of the Bloch building awash in natural light, turned right and climbed the dramatic staircase to the Ward Sculpture Hall – that lion making me catch my breath every time – and took another, sharp, right.  (“Mom knows where everything is here.”  Not true.  I could not find the Impressionists without winding around, but I sometimes drop in on the Surrealists when I have a chance.)  There it was, Calder’s sculpture of wood and metal seeming so doable and simple as you stand up close and imagine the bite of the needle nose pliers on the wire.

Yoichi Ohira, Cristallo Sommerso N. 61–Scolpito Vase, 2009. Hand-blown, cut and polished glass with inciso finish, 12 1/4 x 6 x 5 7/8 in.

We talked about it for a minute, the boys and I, then we left.  I’m giddy with delight that the youngest came home and told me that Picasso, with whom he is familiar because of the delightful book, When Pigasso met Mootisse, was a fan of another artist, an artist who liked to paint the jungle.  “Rousseau?”  “Yeah.  Rousseau.”  And we pull out a book and he flipped through and said, “Yeah.  That’s totally Rousseau,” finding the referenced artist’s work.  Then he walked away leaving the book open on the floor.

Laura de Santillana, Flag 12 (Giallo/Nero Diverso/Nero Diverso), 2008. Hand-blown glass, 17 x 17 ½ in.

The Nelson is like that.  A reference, a touch stone.  I hope it is the thing that makes art striking.  Engaging.  I abhor the thought that it makes art grueling.  A chore.  Worse, a lesson.  Go, if you can, for small bites.  An amuse bouche rather than a Thanksgiving meal that leaves you heavy and tired, a trace memory of the joyful anticipation wiped clean by the gluttonous reality.
Yoichi Ohira, Calle di Venezia N. 10–Casa rossa Vase, 2008. Hand-blown, cut and polished glass murrine, 11 ⅝  x 6 ⅛  x 5 in.
It’s free.  The Nelson is free and the weather is going to be fine.  Drop in.  Say “hi.”  Go just to see the cricket cages.  Picnic on the grounds among the Moores if you can.  You don’t visit every book on every shelf when you go to the library.  You don’t see every movie on every screen when you go to the theater.  Go.  Savor it.  Leave wanting more.
All images of the Venice. 3 Visions in Glass exhibit, at the Nelson now through August 15th.  Mark your calendar for July 16th to hear Catherine Futter, the Curator of Decorative Arts, lead a discussion on the exhibit.  I had the opportunity to walk through with her.  The pieces are beautiful, but I was drawn in, again, by knowing the artists’ intents.  
All images courtesy of Barry Friedman Ltd.
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