Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nelson-Atkins Art Museum


HIGHLIGHT TOUR OF THE NELSON-ATKINS MUSEUM OF ART
            The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is at of the top of  U.S, art museums according the U.S. Today, based on the Yelp.com list of 20 museums on the "number of reviews  and overall star ratings."
            Every time we have entered the Nelson-Atkins, we have enjoyed piece by piece a different highlight tour. Recently after exploring two special traveling exhibits, we were fortunate to discover our docent that day was Lisa Curran, an interior  designer who had graduated from Stephens College. She was eager to highlight five galleries for us on what became a delightful interactive tour.
            We started  in the Bloch Building, the recent modern addition of five glass pavilions to the east of the original building.  The Bloch building houses the contemporary,  African,  photography and special exhibitions.
            Curran would pick out an object to concentrate our attention on, such as a king's throne in the African exhibition that was made from beads she explained were imported and very expensive.

A King's throne in the African exhibition made from beads

            One  gallery of modern art was created by artists disturbed by bouts of depression, who were working out some of their own problems on their canvases, for example Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock .   She noted that all the artists in this gallery had known and influenced each other.
            Visitors vary on what canvases they prefer; for example. to Wayne the work of Mark Rothko just looks to be patches of color on color.  Curran enjoyed and valued his work and like most docents we have met made an attempt to help Wayne see the deeper meaning in the work.
             At the Post-Impressionists  we concentrated on Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin. Curran commented  on their use of light and color and how they were the first to work in outside light and use it differently than previous artists. 
            On a more modern note we saw a number of Thomas Hart Benton works. We are familiar with his art from the Truman Library and state Capital in Jefferson City.  We had previously written a story on the traveling exhibition that been at the Nelson several years ago, highlighting Benton as one of Missouri's greatest artists.
            The major contribution to build the collection at the Nelson-Atkins came in the form of money from William Nelson.  That allowed the curators to purchase the collection during the Great Depression when a vast market was available because there were so few buyers.
            The museum is widely known for its extensive Chinese art collection.  Again getting the pieces was a matter of luck in that the man who purchased the art works, Laurence Sickman was in China in the 1930's.  He spoke fluent Chinese and had studied Chinese history and art.  Nelson gave him 11 million dollars to build a collection of Chinese paintings, sculpture and furniture for the museum at a time when prices were low and the art could be taken out of the country. The museum claims 7,000 pieces spanning 5000 years.


A Chinese carving, Guanyin of the Southern Sea

            In the Chinese section Curran called our attention to a large figure carved from wood and beautifully painted called Guanyin of the Southern Sea that she said with the finest sculpture of its kind outside of China. She said the Chinese would like some of the Nelson-Atkins collection of Chinese art back.
            Waiting for the High Lights Tour we had watched a presentation on the 11 million dollar renovation of the Bloch Galleries of European art that will open March 11, 2017. For art lovers this will certainly be worth a trip.


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