Tag Archives: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Gifts from the Heart

The Nelson-Atkins announced last week that the museum will receive 400 works from 75 patrons in honor of its 75th anniversary.  Included in this outstanding outpouring of support is the promise of the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection of Impressionist Masters.  Some of you may remember these pieces from the celebration of the opening of the Bloch building.

Adele and Donald Hall have donated seven pieces of their African art collection. (The Halls invited museum director and CEO, Marc Wilson, to choose six.  After his selection he had chooser’s remorse; the Halls graciously offered up the piece that caused the regret.)

The opening of the exhibit celebrating these gifts, which will feature 140 pieces, is this Saturday, February 13th.  You can find out more about specific gifts and ticket information (for non-members) at the Nelson’s site here.  A perfect escape from this frozen tundra for your Valentine.
Images from top, Pierre Bonnard The White Cupboard, 1931, from the Bloch collection; Salt Cellar, Ivory, Sierra Leone, late 15th – early 16th century, from the Hall collection; Akio Takamori, Kanzan, 2006 from the Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz collection.
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There was an interesting article in the paper this weekend about the loss of serendipity. The theory is that as we hunt and peck behind our screens we are less likely to stumble upon something new and fresh. Everything is sorted for us. There is little opportunity for surprise.

At the Nelson yesterday my friend and I stopped in front of this painting by Franz Kline. As we were walking away the museum guard, who had stood quiet and unalarmed as our children darted here and there, stopped my friend to tell her that Jackie Kennedy had endorsed Kline. It was considered a brave choice, he said, for her day and position.
Sometimes it’s good to get out.
Image courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
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So, we’re busy. Last week especially our plate was overflowing with goodness. Good friends, good parties, good events.
Mr. Blandings and I make a point of only being out together one night a week. If we can. Then we both have the occasional meeting, but at least the other is home to help with homework and sports carpools and computer glitches.
Last week was nutty bananas. We were so lucky to see Eddie Ross and Jaithan Kochar when they were in town. Twice. The last time at home and we could have stayed up until two a.m. catching up.
But yesterday things settled down and the youngest Blandings boy and I had the chance to go to see the new American Indian galleries at the Nelson with a friend of mine and a friend of his.
The weather has been cold and yesterday was overcast. In addition, this weekend we’ve been upended as the flue on our furnace draft is not opening which is leading to carbon monoxide venting into the house instead of outside the house. We have detectors, but it’s troubling.

Always when I enter the Nelson the world melts away and yesterday was no different. The meetings and projects and downdrafts were gone. My friend and I wandered through with our six-year-olds and asked questions about piles of rice and rows of beads and cages for crickets. The girls agreed that given the opportunity, all the turquoise bracelets should be worn all at once and definitely not one at a time.

And while not all of us were aware, a couple of us were, that collectors and givers like Morton and Estelle Sosland have shared their passion in an incredibly generous way. Certainly, and unknowingly, they provided a respite from daily cares and the anxiety of postponed holiday shopping.
Go, if you can, to see the Nelson and particularly the newly opened American Indian galleries. Admission is free.
And if you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors, don’t delay.
All images courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
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The American Galleries

I had the great pleasure last week of seeing the renovated American Galleries at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  The museum is, indeed, on a trajectory as its director, Marc Wilson, said in his welcoming words.  That trajectory began with a great big jump start with the opening of the Bloch building in 2007, but a steady and impressive climb continues with the opening of the American galleries this week and the Native American galleries in November.
Wilson lauded the donors who invested in this vision as providing the fuel.  Midwesterners are uncomfortable talking about money and I thought this was such a lovely perspective.  You can certainly feel the energy in these new galleries.

The galleries are arranged by time period.  They begin with 1776, an inky blue room which dramatically offsets both the portraits that hang there and the Nathaniel Gould Chest-on-Chest.  Each gallery contains examples of painting, sculpture and decorative arts from the period, so the viewer has the opportunity to absorb a snap shot of the age.
The gallery space was existing, and people familiar with the museum will be aware that it encompasses the space that previously housed five period rooms.  While interesting, those rooms were not entirely accurate and were, frankly, dark and a little difficult to see.  As part of the 1776 gallery, the drawing room of the Robert Hooper House has been restored.  In the previous space this room was painted cream and panels had been removed to make it fit its new home.  The room has now been restored and the paint and glaze were painstakingly applied to closely resemble the original.  It is a rich shade of robin’s egg, slightly paler, with a glossy glaze applied to reflect light.  The baseboards and window seats are bark brown and flat providing a distinct contrast.  The floors are not original to the room, but are composed of 19th century wood resembling the original.  You cannot see much of the furniture from the image, above, but the upholstery is a deep, rich red damask.  (I liked it, just in case you couldn’t tell.)

The galleries unfold through 1826 marking the National Academy of Design in New York, 1850, 1886 recognizing the first Impressionist exhibit in America, 1913 coinciding with the Armory Show which sparked concepts of modernism and 1939 the year of the World’s Fair in New York.

Sometimes you have the opportunity to see works by an artist together, as with three works by John Singer Sargent, but sometimes works grace different galleries reflecting growth and change.  Thomas Hart Benton’s lovely but somewhat conventional portrait of his sister appears along side the Stickley table, the Tiffany lamp and other works in 1913. But, around the corner, in 1939, you will find his dramatic Persephone and Hollywood hanging out with Georgia O’Keefe and a later Frank Lloyd Wright chair which suits both as furniture and sculpture.

It is a terrific way to absorb the art.  Wilson noted that museums are democratic.  The Nelson, which charges no admission, provides the space for us to explore our heritage.  As the museum is free, you don’t have to go and rush and push and see the whole thing in the matter of a couple of hours, overwhelming both your soul and your soles.  You can go, take it in, see a piece, a room, a period.  You should.  It’s yours.  Go see your new rooms. 
The new galleries open Wednesday.  More information on events surrounding the opening here.  The images are by Allison Long for the Kansas City Star.  Other than the Hooper House room, they do not correspond with the text and I can’t for the life of me remember the significance of 1850 other than it preceded the Civil War.  That’s another good reason to go.  Also, the color of the walls throughout are completely stunning.  That’s not what you’re supposed to be looking at either.  I’m just saying.
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