KANSAS CITY, MO.-
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
has named Kimberly Masteller as its first Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art. She joins the Museum in December, coming from the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University where she served as assistant curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art.
The endowed curatorship will be supported through a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is named after longtime supporter of the Museum Jeanne McCray Beals, who collected art, including South and Southeast Asian pieces. She died in 2005.
“The Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art is a tribute in perpetuity to Mrs. Beals. Most importantly it will be a living, breathing memorial to her passion for this institution and our mission to serve this community through the dissemination of knowledge about the collection,” said Marc F. Wilson, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell Director/CEO of the Museum.
Since its inception in 1933, the Nelson-Atkins actively has collected South and Southeast Asian art.
Most objects were acquired before World War II, pre-dating the larger collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“The 945 works of South and Southeast Asian art in the Nelson-Atkins collection include sculptures in stone and bronze, manuscripts, and textiles that not only are of great aesthetic beauty but also keys to understanding over 2,000 years of the religion, history, and literature of this vast area,” Wilson said.
Chief Curator Deborah Emont Scott said Masteller’s duties would include bringing to completion the permanent collection catalog for the South and Southeast Asian collection.
“We are extremely fortunate to have found someone with Kim’s expertise and passion for her subject. We know that she will translate her love of Indian sculpture, architecture, and Southeast Asian art into her work on the collection and her interaction with our visitors and the public,” Scott said.
Masteller comes to the Museum from Cambridge, Mass., where she was assistant curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard, where she had been since 2002. She has been curator or co-curator for 10 exhibitions related to South and Southeast Asian art. In 2000 she was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to India. Her master’s degree in art history with a focus on Indian art is from Ohio University, Athens. Her doctorate is pending from Ohio State University, Columbus.
Masteller said that although art historians around the world know the importance of the Nelson-Atkins collection, she wanted to work to insure that the people of Kansas City had the opportunity to know them as well. “They have a treasure in their back yard,” she said.
Masteller’s familiarity with the collection has already led her to a few quick favorites: “The sublime and peaceful seventh-century Buddha from Thailand, Standing Buddha, The Celestial Nymph from the temple city of Khajuraho, and the graceful and perfectly balanced sculpture of the Hindu God Shiva, Standing Shiva. As I get to know the collection, I will develop many more favorites.”
“While visitors may know about the sculpture in the collection, few may realize it also has exquisite examples of Indian paintings and textiles,” she said. “Because of their light sensitivity, these objects cannot be left out on view for long periods of time. The catalog will provide a place to explore highlights of the entire South and Southeast Asian collections, from favorite sculptures that are on view to hidden gems that are not.”
Masteller will be providing conceptual artistic direction for the presentation and interpretation of the collection that will lead to its eventual reinstallation.