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New exhibition at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Utagawa Hiroshige. Ferry Boats on the Fuji River in Suruga Province. Japanese. ca. 1832. Color woodblock print. 9 1/4 x 14 5/8 inches (23.495 x 37.1475 cm). Courtesy of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Origins: Collecting to Create the Nelson-Atkins
August 14 – March 6, 2022

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City opened its doors in 1933, but the collection was beginning to be built at a frantic pace three years prior. The new exhibition, Origins: Collecting to Create the Nelson-Atkins, explores the very beginnings of the collection as well as the people who made choices about what types of art to collect, the challenges and opportunities of acquiring art during the Great Depression, and the vast diversity of the museum’s first objects. There are more than 50 artworks in the exhibition, most of them acquired in the museum’s first 10 years.

The Nelson-Atkins is the legacy of two Kansas Citians: newspaper publisher William Rockhill Nelson and retired teacher Mary Atkins. Both left funds upon their deaths to create an art museum in Kansas City: Atkins’ money for a building, and Nelson’s to acquire art. The group who managed Nelson’s estate were responsible for assembling the future museum’s art collection.

“Laurence Sickman was one of the museum’s first advisors on Asian art,” said MacKenzie Mallon, Provenance Specialist at the Nelson-Atkins. “He acquired much of the museum’s foundational Chinese art collection, including some of its most important works, and became our first Curator of Asian Art in 1935.”

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