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Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art mourns loss of longtime Trustee Laura Fields
Laura K. Fields was a longtime member of the museum’s Board of Trustees. Photo: Mark McDonald.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art joins the Fields and Kemper families in mourning the passing of Laura K. Fields, a longtime member of the museum’s Board of Trustees and a champion of modern and contemporary art. Mrs. Fields died Thursday, Jan. 9.

“This loss will be felt deeply, both for the museum and for me personally,” said Shirley Bush Helzberg, Chair of the Nelson-Atkins Board of Trustees. “All of us benefitted from Laura’s passion for art, and I especially admired her resolve to make the Nelson-Atkins one of the finest institutions in the country.”

With her influence, the foundation that carries her great uncle’s name, the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee, created a $10 million collecting initiative in 1999 that resulted in major contemporary art acquisitions for the Nelson-Atkins. Among them were El Anatsui’s stunning Dusasa I, a tapestry of flattened liquor bottle caps stitched together with copper wire, which now hangs in Bloch Lobby, and a recently installed sculpture by artist Maya Lin, Silver Missouri, a work of recycled silver that is part of her series about water conservation.

“It is impossible to walk through the galleries of the Bloch Building without being touched by Laura’s profound influence,” said Julian Zugazagoitia, Director & CEO of the Nelson-Atkins. “She truly cared about the Nelson-Atkins, and she was part of the museum’s fabric for many years. We will all miss her intelligence and her quest for excellence.”

Artists whose works were acquired through the William T. Kemper Collecting Initiative include Marcel Duchamp, Adolph Gottlieb, Louise Bourgeois, Kerry James Marshall, Bridget Riley, Elizabeth Murray, Anish Kapoor, Kiki Smith, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Rachel Whiteread, Alexander Ross and many others.

The effort was named for Mrs. Fields’ great uncle, William T. Kemper, Jr. (1902-1989), who was born into a prominent Kansas City banking family and quickly became integral to the business and philanthropic life of the city and region. The collecting initiative was guided by art advisor Robert Storr, Dean of Yale University’s School of Art and a personal friend of Laura Fields, who worked with Nelson-Atkins curators to broaden the museum’s collection.

“Laura was the key to that initiative, and without her deep commitment to the museum, it would not have happened,” said Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern Art at the Nelson-Atkins. “Laura was genuinely passionate about art, and we as a museum are greatly indebted to her.”

Mrs. Fields and her husband, Michael, were generous and longtime supporters of the museum. She served several terms as a trustee beginning in 1988, and she served on numerous committees. Mrs. Fields was the current chair of the Building and Grounds Committee.

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