The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was opened to the public in December 1933 and is located in Kansas City, Missouri. The museum was born from the cultural ambitions of two individuals, William Rockhill Nelson and Mary McAfee Atkins, who believed that a community needed museums to be truly civilized.

Nelson was the founder of the local newspaper, TheKanas City Star, and was a prominent figure in the development of Kansas City and its vibrant culture. When he passed away in 1915, the majority of his possessions were donated to the Kansas City community for public enjoyment. This was done through his personally established trust – The William Rockhill Nelson Trust for the purchase of works of art. Photo: Photo: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

»Museum History

Museum History


Atkins was but a seemingly humble school teacher who also had great cultural dreams for Kansas City. Although she was fairly unknown in the community, she eventually donated one-third of her million dollar fortune to purchase the property for the soon-to-be Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

These two very generous donors combined their fortune and cultural aspirations to build a museum for the people of their beloved city. The Museum has truly flourished since 1933 and currently, there are more than 35,000 works of art housed at the museum, which receives approximately 500,000 visitors annually.

The museum is still expanding and evolving to this day, the most recent and largest addition was the Bloch Building. It was added to the museum in 2007 in order to increase gallery and storage space.

The mission of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is to use the power of art to engage the spirit of a community. The Museum provides free admission to all in order to inspire creativity, generate understanding, and nurture excellence through the power of art. Ultimately, the dedicated staff at the Museum hopes to maintain an environment where members of the community can gather and contemplate the cultural creations of humankind.

This dedication to excellence has been recognized by not only the local community, but the nation, in fact, the museum was recently voted the Best U.S. Museum by Yelp Reviews. The Museum is also currently internationally recognized as one of the finest general art museums in the United States. Photo:

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»Permanent Collections

Permanent Collections


There are more than 35,000 works of art house at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art which are divided into 14 exciting collections: African; American; American Indian; Ancient; Architecture, Design, and Decorative Arts; Chinese; Contemporary; Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park; European; Japanese; Modern; Photography; Prints and Drawings; South, Southeast, and West Asian. This wide variety of collections allows visitors to experience new and unique connections to the art world.

The African artwork collection has more than 400 works of artfrom a variety of materials that spans approximately 2,500 years of African history. Much of the highlights of the collection are sculptures of human figures an elaborate headdresses, ceramics, and bodily ornaments. The Museum began collecting African art in 1958, after receiving two 17th-century cast brass objects from Nigeria.

The American artwork collection features works of art from the 18th century through World War II, and contains paintings, sculptures and works on paper made in the United States during that era. Highlights from the collection are mainly oil on canvas paintings of people and landscapes from the time. The Museum began collecting American artwork in the 1970s after a generous gift from the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation.

The American Indian artwork collection is one of the most notable collections of the Museum and includes North American cultural and historical objects from pre-European contact to the present day. Highlights of the collection include pottery, traditional garbs, jewelry, tools, and headdresses. The collection is already quite vast and is still expanding today thanks to generous donors.

The Ancient artwork collection spans more than 4,000 years of the great civilizations of the Near East – Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The Museum acquired this collection in 2007 which occupies almost an entire gallery. Some highlights of the collection are exquisite jewelry from Greece, 304 servant statues from ancient Egypt, and private portraits from Early Roman Christian Art..

The Architecture, Design, and Decorative Arts collection contains a wide variety of decorative arts from medieval stained glass to 21stcentury furniture. Highlights of the collection are 18th-century English silver, European Furniture, and pre-industrial British pottery. The representation of the arts and crafts movement of the 21stcentury can also be found. This collection aims to highlight social, economic, political, religious, and artistic contexts of the past and hopefully lead to a greater understanding of said issues in the future.

The Chinese artwork collection has more than 7,000 items spanning 5,000 years and is considered one of the finest in the West. Included in the collection are ancient bronzes and jades, Chinese painting from the 10th through the 13th centuries, Buddhist sculpture and wall paintings, and even Chinese furniture, ceramic and textiles.

The Contemporary artwork collection is diverse and covers work 1960 to the present. The main highlight of the collection is a generous gift from the Hall Family Foundation’s Modern Sculpture Initiative – The Noguchi Sculpture Court. This collection shows the influence of European Surrealism and American Minimalism in the modern sculpture world.

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»More Permanent Collections

More Permanent Collections


The Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park is 22-acres of picturesque nature within a unique urban setting. The collection was started in 1986 when 57 works by Henry Moore were acquired by the Hall Family Foundation. The collection is continuously growing and the garden is open from dawn until dusk.

The European artwork collection contains almost 900 works ranging from the medieval period to the late 19th century. The highlights of the collection are 17th century Italian Baroque paintings and a large selection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Work by the great artists of the period can be found including pieces by Gauguin, Monet, and even Van Gogh.

The Japanese artwork collection contains more than 2,000 works of art ranging from the 7th century to the early 20th century. There are a variety of mediums found in this collection including screens, scrolls, woodblock prints, ceramics, and sculpture.

The Modern artwork collection highlights works from 1900 to 1959. Represented in this collection is Cubism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Dada, Surrealism, Bauhaus, and Abstract Expressionism in a variety of mediums including paintings, sculptures, and drawings. The collection is still growing thanks to generous donors and modern art foundations.

The Photography collection was first started in 1957 when the museum acquired 60 prints by Edward Weston. Currently, there are 6,500 works by 900 different artists. The collection encompasses American works from 1839 to the present.

The Prints and Drawings collection is one of the largest collections in the museum, containing more than 6,000 works.

The South, Southeast, and West Asian artwork collection has more than 1,100 objects representing a wide variety of art forms from as early as the 3rd century. Stone and bronze items from India, Nepal, Tibet, and Gandhara are found in this collection.

These 14 vastly different collections provide visitors with endless works of art and unique experiences to have at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This internationally recognized collection is not to be missed. Photo:

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»Plan Your Visit

Plan Your Visit

The exhibitions currently open to the public at the museum are: An Anonymous Art; American Watercolor 1860-1960; Masterworks of the German Renaissance; Make Room for Color Field; Flowers to Frost: Four Seasons in East Asian Art; Revealing a Hidden Treasure: A Jain Shrine; Rodin: Sculptures from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.

Some upcoming museum exhibits are: Luxury: Treasures of the Roman Empire; Nick Cave: Property; Cuba Bound: Photographs by Jesse A. Fernandez; Surveillance; Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath; Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet.

Ongoing Programs

The Museum prides itself on remaining active in educational programs and community outreach endeavors. There are after-school programs, summer camps, programs for older adults, art courses for adults on the autism spectrum, and even a speaker’s bureau.

There is also an educational outreach program called Thinking through Art. This program allows the Museum to work in partnership with local Kansas City schools to provide critical year-round classroom-based lessons.

The museum provides free admission every day and a variety of tours and workshop options for every group, family, or individual. There is also a world-class restaurant, a fully stocked art reference library, and an exciting museum store. Most areas of handicap accessible and mobile guides are available at the information desk. The Museum also offers accessibility programs to those who may require special assistance to navigate the museum.

The surrounding Kansas City area is full of fine dining, historical and cultural experiences, and picturesque nature as well. For more information, visit the Kansas City tourism website.

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4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64111, website, Phone: 816-751-1278 Photo: bluraz/Fotolia

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri