Magnificent Gifts for the 75th

February 13, 2010— April 4, 2010

The Adele and Donald Hall Gift of African Art

Seven extraordinary works of African art from the private collection of Adele and Donald Hall have been promised in honor of the Museum’s 75th Anniversary. The gifts, each a superb example of African art, will greatly elevate and broaden the Museum’s range of holdings in this area.

“The outpouring of gifts has been tremendously gratifying and, as is often the case, Adele and Don led the way with their generosity,” said Marc F. Wilson, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell Director/CEO.  “They are setting once again an example of what individuals can do to share their passion in a way that matters and that benefits the public. Each of these works of art has a personality and a story, almost like a family member in the Hall household. Any museum would be thrilled to have these, but we are especially honored to receive art personally acquired by the Halls.”

The Halls are long-time benefactors of the Nelson-Atkins who have greatly influenced and supported the Museum’s collection-building and recent expansion project. Mr. Hall is chairman of the board of Hallmark Cards Inc., a company founded in Kansas City by his father, Joyce Hall, 100 years ago. Mr. Hall has served on the Nelson-Atkins Board of Trustees for 29 consecutive years, beginning in March 1980, and Mrs. Hall helped lead fund-raising efforts in support of the Generations Campaign and a $100 million endowment initiative.

The Halls bought their first piece of African art within the first year of their marriage. They found themselves drawn to African works because of the tremendous sculptural quality, the power and contemporary nature of the designs, and the function of the objects within their cultures. Throughout the years, they have been advised by curators and specialists in the field, and they continue to acquire important works.

Highlights from the Adele and Donald Hall Gift of African Art
High-ranking Luba women and men slept with headrests such as this to protect elaborate hairstyles, which indicated civilized refinement and both exterior and interior beauty. This headrest is attributed to the “Master of the Cascade Coiffure,” one of the most renowned 19th-century Luba artists. With its animated female figure, it is an outstanding representative of the diminutive, elegantly carved headrests attributed to this artist, or workshop.

Headrest, Attributed to the Master of the Cascade Coiffure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba peoples, late 19th – early 20th century. Wood, glass beads, and copper, 5 5/16 x 4 ½ x 3 ½ inches. Promised gift of Adele and Donald Hall in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 14.2010.2.

This intricately carved salt cellar with its beautifully rendered figures is one of the more important Sapi-Portuguese ivories. It is attributed to a workshop distinguished by salt cellars featuring cylindrical, openwork bases, and it is carved from one piece of ivory (excepting the lid). A luxury object, it would have been commissioned by Portuguese from local workshops, and incorporates an inventive combination of European and African design elements. The egg-shaped container is decorated with narrow beaded bands (a European embellishment) and supported by four standing figures (an African innovation).

Salt Cellar, Sierra Leone, late 15th – early 16th century. Ivory, 7 ¾ inches. Promised gift of Adele and Donald Hall in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 14.2010.3.

This serenely composed figure, adorned with armlets and waistbeads, displays the idealized traits of a Baule spirit wife: an elegant coiffure, beautifying scarification and filed incisors. According to customary beliefs, all men and women have other-world mates with powers to influence their human partners’ lives. Sculptural representations of one’s spirit spouse could be commissioned for a shrine situated in the privacy of one’s sleeping room.

Seated Female Figure, Ivory Coast, Baule peoples, early 20th century. Wood, 14 ½ inches. Promised gift of Adele and Donald Hall in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 14.2010.1.


The ivory figure, half female and half leopard, appears to represent a founding ancestress of the Yombe. The royal woman holds two gourds that may contain potent medicines associated with rulers’ occult powers. The snarling leopard with its serpent-headed forepaws is a fearsome representation of royal authority and military prowess. Two spiraled staffs flanking the leopard may be royal mvwala staffs drawing power from the earth and ancestral dead. Ivory and the warm, red tone of this figure, achieved through the application of red palm oil, represent powerful spiritual forces.

Royal Staff Finial, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kongo Kingdom, Yombe peoples, 17th – 18th century. Ivory with palm oil, 7 7/8 x 2 ¾ x 1 ½ inches. Promised gift of Adele and Donald Hall in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 12.2001.11.

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