It’s not hard to spot the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Just look for the giant shuttlecock sculptures displayed on the 20-plus-acre lawn in front of the building. When Claes Oldenburg and his late wife, Coosje van Bruggen, first installed the works in the museum’s sculpture park, they created a public uproar, with locals deeming them “not art.” Today, they’re practically the Nelson-Atkins’s mascots—and a magnet for Instagram if there ever was one. The museum itself consists of two structures—a neoclassical original, with a traditional colonnade and marble steps, and the much-more-modern Bloch Building, which resembles a glowing light box. Across both, visitors will find more than 35,000 works of art, including robust Asian, ceramic, and photography collections as well as several examples of centuries-old furniture. Tour the galleries, visit one of the regular traveling exhibitions, and don’t miss a pit stop at the gift store, where you can pick up a ceramic shuttlecock ornament to take home.
Classic and Contemporary Beauty Next to KC's Front Yard
The Nelson-Atkins isn’t just another art museum; with architect Steven Holl’s addition of the Bloch building in 2007, the grounds themselves are a “work of haunting power,” according to The New York Times. The original building, with a traditional colonnade protruding from marble steps, frames what might be called Kansas City’s front yard: a long green space where people toss the frisbee, play catch, or simply lie on the grass. True to form, four giant shuttlecocks adorn the lawn. The Bloch Building runs alongside the structure, a modern art masterpiece of glass and light that’s as much a work of art as what’s inside. The Museum itself features a fine post-impressionist collection, a number of traveling exhibitions (it first hosted one of two American collections of a Water Lilies triptych), and the romantic Rozzelle Court Restaurant, where you can dine in a 15th-century Italian courtyard. Schedule your visit around the popular monthly series “Art Tasting with Julian,” in which museum director Julian Zugazagoitia gives a fun talk about the museum’s pieces over wine. To see a full roster of guest speakers and other programs, visit nelson-atkins.org.
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