Corner of Bloch and Nelson-Atkins Building

Press Room—Curator Biographies

The Nelson-Atkins employs a curatorial staff with knowledge ranging from ancient to contemporary art. These experts are available as resources to the press for matters related to both the institution and individual areas of expertise. The Museum’s press office is happy to arrange interviews. Please contact us at press@nelson-atkins.org  or 816.751.1321.

Robert Cohon 
Curator, Ancient Art

Robert Cohon has been Curator of Art of the Ancient World at the Nelson-Atkins and taught at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a joint-appointment since 1985. With a doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, he has published extensively in international journals on Roman decorative marble sculpture and forgeries of ancient art. His work at the Nelson-Atkins has included the development of the shows Discovery and Deceit: Archaeology and the Forger’s Craft (1996–7); Treasures of Deceit (1998–2000); Spring Fashions, 1 B.C. (1998); and Echoes of Eternity: The Egyptian Mummy and the Afterlife (2000). As part of the Archaeological Institute of America’s lecture program, he has presented his research in the United States and Canada. His current scholarship focuses on the role of measurement in the designing of sculpture.

Stephanie Fox Knappe
Samuel Sosland Associate Curator of American Art

Stephanie Fox Knappe, Associate Curator of American Art, holds a doctoral degree in art history from University of Kansas where she has taught several courses. She was the exhibition coordinator for the first traveling retrospective exhibition of the work of Aaron Douglas and served as acting curator, European and American painting and sculpture, at the Spencer Museum of Art at KU before joining the staff at the Nelson-Atkins. Knappe contributed to the exhibition catalogues Tales from the Easel: American Narrative Paintings from Southeastern Museums, circa 1800-1950 (University of Georgia Press, 2004), Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist (Yale University Press, 2007) and Romancing the West: Alfred Jacob Miller in the Bank of America Collection (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 2010). She also contributed scholarship to The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins: American Paintings to 1945 (2007) for which she served as Senior Project Assistant.

She recently curated Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection and wrote an essay on Buffalo Bill and the Wild West for the catalogue accompanying Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Gaylord Torrence
Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art

Gaylord Torrence is Senior Curator of American Indian Art at The Nelson-Atkins and Professor Emeritus in Fine Arts, Drake University. Widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on Native American art, he is author of The American Indian Parfleche: A Tradition of Abstract Painting, regarded as a landmark study and publication in the field of Native American art history, and curator and co-author of Art of the Red Earth People: The Mesquakie of Iowa. He served as the principal objects consultant and contributing author for Arts of Diplomacy: Lewis and Clark’s Indian Collection, an exhibition and publication organized by the Peabody Museum, Harvard University.

Torrence received a master of fine art's degree in Painting from Michigan State University. Throughout his tenure at Drake, he headed the Studio Drawing area and, beginning in 1975, developed a program of North American Indian art history, one of the first in the country. Torrence joined the staff of the Nelson-Atkins in 2002 as founding curator of the Department of American Indian Art, and led the Museum’s major installation of new American Indian galleries which opened in November, 2009.

Colin Mackenzie
Senior Curator, Chinese Art

Colin Mackenzie joined the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 2009, having formerly held curatorial positions at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Asia Society Museum, and Middlebury College. He received his bachelor's degree and a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and spent two years studying at Beijing University during the early 1980s.

Dr. Mackenzie’s interests range widely from ancient China to contemporary Chinese art. He has published on early Chinese art and archaeology and has contributed to a number of influential exhibitions, including The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology. Mackenzie co-edited the catalogue Asian Games: the Art of Contest (Asia Society, 2004). Mackenzie’s current projects at the Nelson-Atkins include the reinstallation of the early Chinese galleries and the development of a long-range master plan for China.

Ling-en Lu
Associate Curator, Chinese Art

Ling-en Lu, Associate Curator of Early Chinese Art, joined the Museum in 1999. Born in Taiwan, she holds a doctoral degree in Art History from the University of Kansas as well as a Master’s of Library Science from Indiana University.  Ling-en has actively presented papers at Art History conferences and has published several articles on Chinese paintings. 

During her tenure at the Museum, she has been a part of coordinating The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology, a special international exhibition organized by the Museum and the National Gallery of Art in 1999, and has contributed to the two-volume book, New Perspectives on China’s Past:  Chinese Archaeology in the Twentieth Century, which was published by Yale University Press and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 2004. 

Catherine L. Futter
Helen Jane and R. Hugh "Pat" Uhlmann Senior Curator, Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts

Catherine L. Futter has been The Helen Jane and R. Hugh "Pat" Uhlmann Senior Curator of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts since 2002. She has completed several reinstallation projects for the museum as well as a major international loan traveling exhibition, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at World’s Fairs, 1851–1939, and several contemporary art and design exhibitions. Catherine has a BA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Duke University and a MA and PhD in the History of Art from Yale University. Her dissertation was on the 19th century New York interior decorating and furniture-manufacturing firm of Herter Brothers. Although Catherine is a generalist in the field of decorative arts, her specialization is in American and European decorative arts from 1850 to the present. She has focused on the interaction between different cultures and their influence on the decorative arts from the 15th century to the present. 

Catherine’s investigation of the cross-cultural influences on the decorative arts has led to the publication of “ Chinoiserie in Northern Italy – Japanned Decoration in a Rare Eighteenth-century Piedmontese Gabinetto in The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,” in Furniture History and the essay “The Federation of Mankind”: Cross-Cultural Influences in the Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs” and co-editor with Jason T. Busch of the catalogue Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. Catherine has curated contemporary design and decorative arts exhibitions: Resting Places Living Things: Designs by Michael Cross; Forever; an installation by British ceramic artist Clare Twomey; and The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains of World's Fairs, sculptural photographs by Belgian artist Ives Maes. She has taught the history of European and American decorative arts 1750 to the present at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas, Lawrence, as an undergraduate and graduate course and lectured extensively on decorative arts.

Karin Jones
Assistant Curator of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts


Karin Jones joined The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 2005 and was appointed assistant curator of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts in 2013. During the past eight years, she has assisted on numerous projects and exhibitions, including a site-specific installation by the British ceramic artist Clare Twomey entitled Forever and the major international loan exhibition and catalogue for Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. Karin earned her BA in Art History and Architectural Studies University of Washington, Seattle and has completed graduate coursework in art history at the University of Missouri.

Nicole R. Myers
Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture


Nicole R. Myers, Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, is the project director and primary author of French Paintings: The Collections of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a scholarly catalogue in progress that will feature essays and new research on more than 100 paintings and pastels. She recently curated Rodin: Sculptures from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in addition to serving as curator-in-charge of Monet’s Water Lilies. A specialist in 18th- and 19th-century French art, Myers has published on wide-ranging topics including Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, and women artists of the 19th century. Recent publications include an essay on Gustave Courbet’s nudes in the exhibition catalogue Courbet / Clésinger: oeuvres croisées (Musée Courbet, Ornans, 2011).

Prior to joining the Nelson-Atkins in 2011, Myers held positions as a curatorial research assistant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. She also served as a curatorial consultant to the Denver Art Museum on the exhibition Becoming Van Gogh, which opens fall 2012. Myers is currently a doctoral candidate in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where she completed a master’s degree in 2006. She holds a bachelors degree in Art History and French from Washington University in St. Louis.

Jan Schall
Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, holds a doctorate in art history from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in art history from Washington University in St. Louis. In 2000, Schall organized the National Endowment for the Arts Millennium Projects exhibition Tempus Fugit: Time Flies and produced both its accompanying catalogue and award-winning website. Additionally, she curated the Museum’s 75th Anniversary exhibition Magnificent Gifts for the 75th, Kiki Smith: Constellation, Inventing the Shuttlecocks and the seven-part Re:Installation series. She co-curated Sparks! The William T. Kemper Collecting Initiative, the five-part New Media Projects exhibition and 9 prints and drawings exhibitions.

Schall oversaw the renovation and reinstallation of the Museum’s Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park and developed and implemented both the program and installation of the modern and contemporary collection in the expanded Museum. She was a contributing author to (Im)Permanence: Cultures in/out of Time (Carnegie Mellon University), The Sublimated City (University of Missouri), Zhi Lin: Crossing History/Crossing Cultures (Frye Art Museum), and other publications. Formerly a professor of art history at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Schall’s research has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Leesa Fanning
Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art
Leesa Fanning is Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum. She holds a doctorate in art history from the University of Kansas. She recently curated Bill Viola’s The Raft, OpenEnded Group and Bill T. Jones’ After Ghostcatching, Impressions & Improvisations: the Prints of Romare Bearden (organized by the Romare Bearden Foundation), Cao Fei’s  RMB City Opera, Through African Eyes (organized by Detroit Institute of Arts), Wolfgang Laib: Without Place—Without Time—Without Body, George Segal: Street Scenes (organized by Madison Museum of Contemporary Art), Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art and the Diaspora and Siah Armajani: Dialogue with Democracy. Fanning is currently developing a proposed exhibition on spirituality in contemporary global art.

Fanning has taught multiple classes on contemporary art at the University of Missouri and the Kansas City Art Institute as well as African art at the University of Kansas. Fanning taught “Art In-Depth” courses at the museum on ritual and myth, Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle and Shirin Neshat’s Turbulent.

Cambridge University Press published Fanning’s essay, “Willem De Kooning’s Women: The Body of the Grotesque,” in an anthology, Modern Art and the Grotesque. She has also written on Robert Motherwell and Adolph Gottlieb. Fanning was a contributor to the exhibition catalogue, Sparks! The William T. Kemper Collecting Initiative.

Keith F. Davis
Senior Curator, Photography
Keith F. Davis is Senior Curator of Photography at the Nelson-Atkins and also serves as an advisor to the Hall Family Foundation. He received a master’s degree in 1979 in art history from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. After a research internship at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, 1978-79, he became Curator of the Fine Art Collections, Hallmark Cards, Inc. Upon the gift to the museum of the Hallmark Photographic Collection, in December 2005, Davis became the Nelson-Atkins’s founding curator of photography.

Since 1979, he has curated some 80 exhibitions, many of which have been toured to leading museums across the United States and, internationally, from Sydney, Australia, to Lausanne, Switzerland. In addition to teaching and lecturing widely on the history of photography, he is the author of nearly twenty catalogues and books, including An American Century of Photography, From Dry-Plate to Digital: The Hallmark Photographic Collection, 2nd edition (Abrams, 1999); The Origins of American Photography, From Daguerreotype to Dry-Plate, 1839-1885 (HFF/NAMA/Yale, 2007); and The Photographs of Homer Page: The Guggenheim Work, New York 1949-50 (HFF/NAMA/Yale, 2009). His various awards include a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1986-87) for his work on the Civil-War era photographer George N. Barnard. He was honored to be featured in James Stourton’s Great Collectors of Our Time: Art Collecting Since 1945 (Scala, 2007).

April M. Watson
Curator, Photography

April M. Watson holds a doctorate in Art History from the University of Kansas and a masters degree in Art History from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She has a BFA in graphic design from Alfred University. In fall 2013, Watson served as the photography curator for Impressionist France: Visions of Nation from Le Gray to Monet, an exhibition of paintings and photographs co-organized with the Saint Louis Art Museum. She has curated and co-curated several exhibitions from the permanent collection, including Heartland: The Photographs of Terry Evans, a career retrospective of the artist; About Face: Contemporary Portraiture; Thinking Photography: Five Decades at the Kansas City Art Institute; Time in the West: Photographs by Mark Klett & Byron Wolfe and Mark Ruwedel; Human/Nature: Recent European Landscape Photography; and Hide & Seek: Picturing Childhood.  She also served as the venue curator for the loan exhibitions Beloved Daughters: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh and Edward Steichen: In High Fashion The Condé Nast Years.

Prior to joining the Nelson-Atkins in 2007, Watson served as a curatorial research assistant at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and was an NEA curatorial intern at the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson. Watson has contributed writing and scholarship to numerous exhibitions and catalogues for the University of New Mexico Art Museum, the Center for Creative Photography, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.  She also wrote for the monograph The Art of Frederick Sommer: Photography, Drawing, Collage (2005). 

Jane Aspinwall
Associate Curator, Photography

Jane Aspinwall has worked with the Hallmark Photographic Collection since 1999 and was the first member of the Photography department at the Nelson-Atkins after the Hallmark collection was gifted in 2005. Previous to this appointment, she served as the curatorial assistant of Photography and worked in the American Art department of the Nelson-Atkins. Aspinwall received a master’s degree in 2001 in art history from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She also holds a master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in arts management received in 1992 from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Aspinwall was contributor to the book and a co-organizer of the exhibition Developing Greatness: Origins of American Photography, 1839-1885, one of the inaugural exhibitions held in the Museum’s Bloch Building in 2007. She was also co-author and exhibition co-curator of Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs. She has curated numerous exhibitions at the Nelson-Atkins, including: In the Public Eye: Photography and Fame; Restoration: Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison; Hide & Seek: Picturing Childhood (co-curated); Exploring Egypt: 19th Century Expeditionary Photography; Heavens: Photographs of the Sky & Cosmos; and Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs (co-curated).

Kimberly Masteller
Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art

Kimberly Masteller is the Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art. A recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright foundation and the Social Science Research Council, Masteller holds a masters degree in art history from Ohio University and is completing her Ph.D in South Asian Art History at The Ohio State University. Before joining the Nelson-Atkins in 2008, Masteller spent seven years as the assistant curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Harvard University Art Museums. While at Harvard, Masteller curated or co-curated nine exhibitions, including the traveling exhibition, From Mind, Heart, and Hand: Persian, Turkish, and Indian Drawings from the Stuart Cary Welch Collection, and served as the co-author of the related catalogue. Masteller served as a Visiting Assistant Professor for two years at Denison University, where she co-curated a student exhibition of their collections of Southeast Asian and Panamanian art. Masteller has also taught courses in Indian, Islamic and Southeast Asian Art for the Art Institute of Boston, Ohio University and The Ohio State University. Recent publications include a chapter Cultures of Confiscation” in the 2010 anthology A History of Visual Culture: Western Civilisation from the 18th to the 21st Century.

At the Nelson-Atkins, Masteller curated the museum’s presentation of From the Land of the Taj Mahal: Paintings for the Mughal Emperor’s from the Chester Beatty Library in 2009. Masteller is currently working on a collections catalogue and plans for the future reinstallation of the South and Southeast Asia galleries.

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