The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Culture Comes to Kansas City
When Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opened to the public in December 1933, it was viewed as a miracle. Although it was designed in the classical style of so many of its predecessors, it was both more opulent and more beautifully landscaped than most. No other art museum could claim to have acquired such a remarkable collection of art in such a short time and with virtually no local art experts to direct the acquisitions. But most amazing was that this art museum, which rivals the world's finest, came to exist in a midwestern town whose image was one of cowboys and steaks, not cultural institutions.
On the occasion of the museum's sixtieth anniversary, Kristie Wolferman tells the story of how the Nelson-Atkins came to be, re-creating the fascinating combination of people, events, and circumstances that culminated in this temple of art in the Midwest. With words and pictures, Wolferman reveals how the trustees of the estates of the reclusive widow Mary Atkins and of the family of Kansas City Star newspaper editor William Rockhill Nelson joined forces to establish a museum from scratch. These trustees, including some of Kansas City's toughest and shrewdest citizens - among them J. C. Nichols, William Volker, and H. V. Jones - worked tirelessly to complete the building and develop a collection to fill it. With little direction from the museum's founders, the trustees were fortunate to hire a dedicated and talented staff, including the museum's first two directors, Paul Gardner and Laurence Sickman.
This remarkable art institution houses an outstanding Chinese art collection among other unquestionably fine acquisitions in an edifice far more magnificent than anything the donors could have imagined. With 57 illustrations and a lively and engaging text, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art tells the story of how a group of dedicated people turned the dreams of independent benefactors into a world-renowned museum of art.
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