American Indian Art Collection

The Morton and Estelle Sosland Extraordinary Gift of American Indian Art
For more than five decades, Morton and Estelle Sosland have had many roles at the Nelson-Atkins as volunteers, leaders and benefactors, including fund-raising efforts in support of the Generations Campaign and in behalf of the Museum’s campus expansion and endowment fund.

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Most recently, they contributed greatly by giving the Museum their remarkable collection of Northwest Coast art, considered one of the finest private American Indian collections in the country.

The Soslands began collecting American Indian art more than half a century ago, drawn to works from the Northwest Coast by their sculptural beauty and emotional power. The Sosland Collection prioritizes the aesthetic rather than anthropological value of each object, a philosophy reflected in the Nelson-Atkins galleries. 

The Sosland Collection began with the purchase in the 1960s of a headdress frontlet from a New York dealer. Soon after, they greatly expanded their holdings with the purchase of a private collection assembled by Denver Art Museum curator Norman Feder, a well-known scholar in the field. Many works in the collection have been exhibited in important exhibitions across the country, including Sacred Circles at the Nelson-Atkins in 1977, now considered a landmark in the recognition of American Indian art.

Over the years, significant pieces were selectively added and the collection expanded to include contemporary Northwest and Arctic basketry. Most recently, works were acquired at auction and from the collection of George Terasaki, a preeminent dealer and authority on Northwest Coast works.

Highlights from the Sosland Collection include the following masterworks:


49-2008-2_Kwakiutl-DzunukwaMask_RightFrontOblique One of the most masterful depictions of Dzunukwa, or Wild Woman of the Woods, an 1870 mask from British Columbia.
Dzunukwa was a creature believed to carry off wandering or misbehaving children. Stories of her presence were intended to keep children close to home. This dramatic work conveys the convincing impression of a half-animal, half-human creature of the forest.
49-2008-1_Tlingit-SwanMask small.tif A powerful wooden Swan Mask  from the Tlingit tribe of Southeast Alaska, from the early 19th century, ca. 1800–1830.
The beak is hinged with leather, which would have allowed it to open during performances, giving the mask a lifelike appearance in the firelight. This dramatic effect would have been intensified by the reflective abalone shell inlays.
49-2008-5_Edenshaw-BearFrontlet SMALL.tif A headdress frontlet, ca. 1850, one of several masterworks from generations of the Edenshaw family of the Haidas.
This carved wooden frontlet would have been worn on the forehead as the primary element of an elaborate ceremonial headdress. It is attributed to Albert Edward Edenshaw of Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia.
49-2008-33_Reid-ModelTotemPole SMALL An extraordinary argillite Model Totem Pole, ca. 1965, one of only four by renowned Northwest Coast artist Bill Reid.
It is considered one of the finest argillite carvings within the tradition off model poles begun around 1880. Reid has created an intricately detailed and complex carving that depicts an eagle, frog, human figures, bear mother and cubs and killer whale.