This week I had the pleasure of attending a discussion series held with current director Julian Zugazagotia called “Art Tasting With Julian”. This particular evening Julian, the fifth director of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, had invited Marc Wilson, the museums fourth director up until 2010, to join him on stage to revisit the evolution of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The two regaled the audience with behind the scenes stories and histories of the Nelson-Atkins from its fledgling days to its current position in today’s elite museum community across the world.
It was a pleasure to watch the two directors sit on stage as if old friends and share with us the story of how the museum and its internationally recognized collection came to be. We heard stories of Japanese surrender to Laurence Sickman (the museums director from 1953-1977) during WWII. Sickman was simply trying to enter into to Japan before anyone else to discuss purchasing artworks! We learned about acquisitions of some of the most treasured pieces of artwork that are now currently in the collection. Would you believe that the internationally acclaimed Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva piece that currently sits in the Nelson-Atkins Asian art wing was sitting in a Chinese art dealer’s back yard covered in snow!?! So much snow in fact that they had to take a broom and sweep it off in order to see what the piece was. The stories seemed to help encourage the audience to remember what a treasure we have here in Kansas City and to remind us that what sits right here in our midst is truly worth taking a second or even third look at over the years. As Julian reminded us, you never step in the same river twice, just as you never see the same painting twice. We are always in a different place in our lives when we come to these works of art and we will always see something new and inspiring each time we visit.
As an added bonus, KCPT was recording the antics and tales to be broadcast this fall as part of a series that The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is participating in for the first time this year. So for any of you that might have missed the chance to sit in on this particular event or any of the others in the “Art Tasting With Julian” series there is no need to worry because you can always catch them very soon on KCPT, and I definitely encourage you to mark your calendars and set your DVR’s for this one in particular.