The Nelson-Atkins Press Release
Objects of Devotion

Nelson-Atkins Partners with Rockhurst University on Devotional Installation

Powerful Images Convey Abstract Religious Ideas

Kansas City, MO, June, 23 2021 – A new installation at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City features special loans from Rockhurst University. Objects of Devotion: Highlights from Rockhurst University’s Van Ackeren Collection of Religious Art offers a glimpse into the hopes and fears of the people who used these types of objects for worship hundreds of years ago. Although intimate in scale, the dramatic use of color, light, and space, and narrative moments fraught with intensity found in this grouping of nine paintings ranging in date from 1400 to the 1730s, capture the attention and remind visitors how this moment in history revitalized religious painting and provided people a vehicle to reconnect with their faith.

“What a great collaboration this is with our wonderful colleagues at Rockhurst University,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “We are delighted to share these treasures, which are a shining example of the depth and richness of the art that can be found in Kansas City.”

By 1300 in Western Europe, a form of spirituality emerged that emphasized emotional involvement. Faithful Catholics were encouraged to pray to images of saints who might bring their struggles and hopes to God’s attention. These images, with their associated symbols, helped a mostly illiterate society relate to abstract religious ideas. They also prompted reflection for practicing Catholics and for anyone who uses sacred objects to find comfort and connection with the divine.

“It is with deep gratitude that we are partnering with our renowned neighbor, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,” said Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., President of Rockhurst University. “This partnership allows us to share these beautiful and meaningful sacred works with a much wider audience during a time when our own gallery is closed due to construction. Our hope is that viewers will gain a better understanding of the role these pieces played in the spiritual lives of those who reflected and prayed with them, prompting a curiosity about the sacredness that surrounds us and is within each of us.”

Italian Baroque art took shape in the midst of a passionate attempt to reform Europe’s wealthiest, most powerful art patron, the Roman Catholic Church. In response to the Protestant Reformation and its call for an end to corruption within the Church, the Papacy deliberately promoted painting, sculpture and architecture that would inspire a renewed intensity of religious feeling in a disillusioned populace.

“The use of devotional objects as conduits for spiritual support is still a living tradition, and a thread that connects across many belief and value systems,” said Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts. “Therefore, we hope these objects will provide multiple reflection points for visitors during these unique and challenging times.”

All works in this exhibition are on loan from The Van Ackeren Collection of Religious Art at Rockhurst University. The University has assembled this collection over thirty years, in consultation with Nelson-Atkins curators.

View Exhibition

Photo credit: Gabe Hopkins

About The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum, which strives to be the place where the power of art engages the spirit of community, opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds. The museum is an institution that both challenges and comforts, that both inspires and soothes, and it is a destination for inspiration, reflection and connecting with others.

The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of more than 42,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and Native American and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. In 2017, the Nelson-Atkins celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Bloch Building, a critically acclaimed addition to the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday through Monday; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thursday; closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit

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Kathleen Leighton, Manager, Media Relations and Video Production
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art