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Museum Announces Major Collecting Initiative in Honor of 75th Anniversary
Mark Di Suvero, American. B. 1933, China. Rumi, 1991. Painted steel, 24 feet x 8 feet 9 inches. Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, F99-33/5.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- In honor of its 75th anniversary, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has launched a major, year-long initiative to collect significant works of art that will culminate in a celebratory exhibition in 2010. The initiative was announced Thursday evening during the Museum´s event A Sparkling Night: A Toast to Our 75th, when 11 early and important acquisitions were unveiled to a crowd of more than 1,200 people.

Gifts and purchases will be part of the 75th Anniversary Collecting Initiative that honors the Nelson-Atkins success in building an encyclopedic collection of art that is considered one of the finest in the country. At the Thursday event, the Museum recognized 34 donors who already have given or pledged works of art to the Nelson-Atkins.

The Nelson-Atkins opened to the public Dec. 11, 1933, and more than 8,000 visitors stood in line to see the new Museum.

“The people who first imagined and built the Nelson-Atkins did not possess an established art collection, but instead possessed the will and desire to create an excellent Museum,” said Marc F. Wilson, the Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell Director/CEO of the Nelson-Atkins. “It required tenacity, skill and good fortune to build the existing collection throughout the past 75 years, and the best way to honor that legacy is to continue seeking works that add depth and excitement to the Nelson-Atkins collection. We are deeply grateful to members of our community who will make that possible.”

At Thursday´s event, Museum members toasted to the past 75 years and also saw firsthand 11 of the initial acquisitions curators have secured, including a painting by the American artist Raphaelle Peale, a rare American Indian coat, a sculpture by George Segal, a drawing by the 18th-century Italian artist Gaetano Gandolfi, a photograph by Gustave Le Gray of France, a photograph by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, and five pieces of decorative art.

Curators will continue to request gifts and buy major works throughout the year.

“We are fortunate to be surrounded by people who understand the value of the arts and who enthusiastically support our efforts to build a meaningful collection,” said Chief Curator Deborah Emont Scott. “Our early success in this initiative speaks to the generosity of those supporters.”

The early acquisitions in the initiative included the following:

 Still Life with Liqueur and Fruit represents Raphaelle Peale‟s highest achievement as a still-life painter and is an important addition to the Museum´s American collection. Peale (1774–1825) was the eldest son of Charles Willson Peale, patriarch of America‟s greatest family of artists, and Raphaelle was considered the most talented Peale of his generation. An earlier Peale painting, the beloved Venus Rising from the Sea–A Deception, 1822, has been part of the Nelson-Atkins collection since 1934.

“Peale´s stunning still life adds to our American collection in multiple ways,” said Margaret C. Conrads, Samuel Sosland Senior Curator of American Art. “It brings a most beautiful, jewel-like painting by this important artist to Kansas City. It expands our early American holdings beyond the portrait tradition, and it perfectly reflects the philosophical and emotional tenor of the era in which it was painted.”

The painting, acquired through The Ever Glades Fund, will be part of the new American galleries that are currently under construction and will open in April 2009.

 Captain’s Coat is a rare coat from the Ojibwa, dating to the 18th century, that illustrates the profound interaction and shared influence of European and Native traditions. It is a European-style coat made from one large skin, likely buffalo, elaborately decorated with porcupine and bird quillwork together with painted designs. The coat embodies the dynamic cultural exchange that characterized the North American beaver trade during the American Colonial period, and it is one of only 19 known examples.

“As a work of North American Indian art, the coat is splendid in both the profusion of its decorative elements and in its beautifully organized composition,” said Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art.

The coat, a gift of art collector and dealer Ned Jalbert, will be on display when the new American Indian galleries open November 2009.

 George Segal´s plaster-cast sculpture Chance Meeting depicts two women and a man who have met on a corner. Segal (1924–2000) imagined people moving about on city streets in what he called a “hypnotic dream state,” and the figures in this sculpture appear lost in thought and isolated from one another. “This magnificent gift from Carroll and Donna Janis will provide a perfect indoor complement to Segal´s Rush Hour in our Kansas City Sculpture Park,” said Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Both the plaster and the bronze versions of Chance Meeting will be included in the exhibition George Segal: Street Scenes, at the Nelson-Atkins from May 9 to Aug. 2, 2009.

 The drawing King David by the Italian artist Gaetano Gandolfi provides depth to the collection because it was a study for a Gandolfi painting Assumption of the Virgin with Old Testament Figures, which the Museum owns and is currently on view in the European galleries. It is an intended gift from the late Joseph F. McCrindle of New York.

 Brig upon the Water, an albumen print by the French photographer Gustave Le Gray, dates to 1856. It was one of the earliest photographs successfully marketed to an art audience. “From a technical standpoint, Brig was a notable feat: it was made with an unusually rapid or „ instantaneous exposure and represented the careful combination of two negatives, one for the sea, and another for the sky,” said Jane Aspinwall, assistant curator of photography. It is a gift from the Hall Family Foundation.

 The other photograph in the group, Channel, is by American photographers Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison and results from photographic technologies to construct visual allegories. The exhibition of a selection of their works owned by the Nelson-Atkins, Restoration: Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, is currently open in the Bloch Building and offers a mid-career survey of the work by the couple. It closes Feb. 8, 2009. Robert earned a master´s degree in fine arts from the Kansas City Art Institute. The photograph is a gift of the artists.

Five decorative works of art are among the new acquisitions:

 A glass and silver Vase by the Libbey Glass Company and the Mauser Manufacturing Company. Libbey operated in Toledo, Ohio, from 1888 to 2004, and Mauser was a sliver manufacturer in New York City from 1890 to 1903. The glass and silver vase dates from ca. 1900. “Catching light and flashing with brilliance, it is a superb example of American cut glass with silver mounts,” said Catherine Futter, Helen Jane and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Curator of Decorative Arts. It is a promised gift of Herb Adler.

 Branch Teapot is by the Taiwanese artist Ah Leon (b. 1953). The artist disguises this teapot, made of Yixing stoneware clay, as illusionistic branches. “Ah Leon follows the naturalistic tradition of Yixing wares yet he imbues them with a sense of modernism,” Futter said. Branched Teapot is a promised gift from the Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz Collection.

 New Year in Simi City is a work in porcelain, raku and stoneware by the American artist Adrian Saxe (b. 1943). “His fantastically elaborate ceramics recall the luxuriousness of 18th-century European porcelains but with a modern twist. By exaggerating form, surface and materials, Saxe wittily addresses not only ceramic history, but also our own era of extravagance and conspicuous consumption,” Futter said. The work is a promised gift from the Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz Collection.

 Charger with Hare joins other pieces by Ken Ferguson in the decorative arts collection. Ferguson (1928-2004) was a faculty member at the Kansas City Art Institute and is considered Kansas City´s most well-known ceramic artist. “Ken instilled an enduring love of clay in his students and among local and national collectors and curators alike,” Futter said. The work is a promised gift from the Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz Collection.

 Black Widow is a fiberglass chair by Wendell Castle, an artist born in Emporia, KS, now working in Rochester, NY. “Using such unconventional furniture materials of fiberglass and car body paint, Castle has demonstrated that chairs can be beautiful, repulsive, hard, slinky and very sexy. This chair seduces the view with its sinuous contours and rich deep red enamel paint,” Futter said. The chair is a gift of Barry Friedman.

The early acquisitions will be on view in Kirkwood Hall in the original Nelson-Atkins Building through the weekend, as the Museum continues with a public celebration of its 75th anniversary. The Cupcake Kickoff, designed as a lively weekend Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13 and 14, offers visitors free cupcakes, live music featuring The Scamps and the Kerry Strayer Band, free admission to the exhibition Art in the Age of Steam: Europe, America and the Railway, 1830–1960, plus a shopping experience in the Museum Store – 75 Gifts for Under $75 – and tours that leave every 75 minutes.

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