The Nelson-Atkins
Origins: Collecting to Create the Nelson-Atkins
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Origins: Collecting to Create the Nelson-Atkins

In the first years of the Nelson-Atkins, the founding trustees and their advisors made choices about what art to collect for this new museum in Kansas City. They wanted to gather art from cultures around the world and throughout history, but the booming art market of the late 1920s made this a difficult task. Just as they began to collect, however, the onset of the Great Depression rendered art less expensive and more available. This fortuitous timing allowed the trustees to acquire an exceptional collection in an unprecedented amount of time.

This exhibition explores the beginnings of the Nelson-Atkins collection and the personalities behind it: from archaeological excavations, to Laurence Sickman’s purchases in China, to the influence of important art dealers, to the first gifts from Kansas City collectors. Origins: Collecting to Create the Nelson-Atkins brings to life the remarkable stories of how a major museum formed in the Depression-era Midwest.

Organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Generous support provided by Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation, Paul DeBruce and Linda Woodsmall-DeBruce, the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts — Commerce Bank, Trustee, Teresa Meagher and T. Bradley Manson, and Husch Blackwell LLP.

Media Partner: The Independent

Raven Mask, ca. 1870. Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl), British Columbia, Canada. Wood, pigment, metal, and cedar bark. 11 1/4 x 11 x 42 inches (28.58 x 27.94 x 106.68 cm). Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 31-125/7.

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Lucas Cranach the Younger, German (1515–1586). Portrait of a Man, 1538. Oil on beech panel, 19 3/4 x 14 1/16 inches. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 31-112. Photo: Nelson-Atkins Media Services.

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Laurence Sickman in Luoyang market, 1932. Laurence Sickman Papers, MSS 001, Museum Archives.

 

Utagawa Hiroshige, Japanese (1797–1858). Ferry Boats on the Fuji River in Suruga Province from the series Famous Places in Japan. Color woodblock print, 9 1/4 x 14 5/8 inches. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 32-143/232. Photo: Gabe Hopkins.

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Exhibition Programs

Origin Stories
Virtual Event
Thursday, September 16
6:00 – 7:00 pm

Delve further into the stories behind some of the objects in the early collection and the individuals who shaped it with curators from across the museum.

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Curator is IN!
Gallery L13, Bloch Building
Date: TBD

Join the exhibition curators in a casual gallery talk.

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The Museum Moment in Kansas City: 1926-1940
Thursday, November 18
6:00 – 7:00 pm
Virtual Event

Three of the city’s signature museums opened between 1926 and 1940: the Liberty Memorial (1926), the Nelson-Atkins (1933), and the Kansas City Museum (1940). Learn about Kansas City of the time, how these institutions came to be, and the connections among them.

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