For my birthday present, I asked if my mom would take me to the Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Our little family goes to the Nelson quite a bit, as it’s about five minutes away from our house and is FREE. That’s right: Monet, Van Gogh, Warhol, a mummy… over 33,500 objects from the ancient to the contemporary. It’s one of my favorite places to be.
The World’s Fairs exhibit was a paid event, however (though we scored a coupon at the Maker Fair) so I asked if my mom could take me. I thought it would be out of our budget, but tickets were only $8 (less, after the coupon). And the kids got in free. (So my mom took us to lunch, too.)
The exhibit featured beautiful and amazing artifacts that had been displayed at the World’s Fairs from the years 1851-1939. It was interesting to see the showing off changing technology, the mix of cultures, and the shift from intricacy to minimalism over time.
Eliza, Jonas, my mom, and I marveled at the amazing and priceless artifacts. My mom and I loved the wood pieces (tables, armoires, writing desks, vases) with intricate inlaid designs. My grandpa and great-grandpa are carpenters, so we know how amazingly difficult that craft is. To see wood pieces that beautiful and intricate made BEFORE POWER TOOLS was mind-boggling to me.
Eliza loved all of the tiaras, diadems, bracelets, broaches, and other jewelry the most. She loved trying to guess what country the pieces came from, what they were made of, and what they were used for.
Jonas was really into everything. He kept pointing, saying “Pretty, pretty, mine? Mine?”. He was especially in love with a Japanese room divider depicting the ocean: I think it reminded him of the The Great Wave off Kanagawa noren we have at home.
We couldn’t take pictures in the exhibit, but you can see some examples of the amazing things we were looking at in the exhibition themes part of the site (click on one of the themes, then click on the different photos to read about the artifacts).
We also made sure to check out the contemporary art collection. Eliza was very excited to take a closer look at a real-life Jackson Pollock after learning about him and making a Pollock inspired painting of her own last week.
I took her to the room with the Pollock (it’s No. 6, 1952) and charged her with finding it. She didn’t recognize the work as his, because it’s so different than the ones we researched before she did her painting. She theorized that the fabric Pollock used soaks up the paint differently, which makes the splatters look different. She also liked the hard little white paint drips that you can only see up close. She wondered why the black soaked in, but the white looked different. “Maybe they were different kinds of paint?” She’s cool.
Jonas was so good! He kept staring around and babbling about the art. (If anything had a circle, he got excited and shouted “Ball! Ball!”) I’m so thankful that my mom helped corral him. He’s a little bundle of energy.
Jonas’s favorite (judging by how many times he said “pretty” and how long he wanted to look at it) was Jesus Rafael Soto’s Ecriture, N.Y., which looks like the above from the side and the below from the front.
Jonas could not figure that optical illusion out. He loved it.
(Thanks to the Nelson on Twitter for sourcing that work for me.)
Eliza’s favorite piece in the contemporary section was Andy Warhol’s Mao. She loved the repetition of the shape and the change of the colors and has picked Warhol as her next artist to learn about and imitate.
It’s only been a few months since I’ve been to the museum, but there were so many things that were there that weren’t there the last time! I didn’t even know that the Nelson had a Warhol Mao. I know they have Warhol’s Baseball, but haven’t ever seen Mao (a new acquisition? a switch-out from storage?). I love that the museum is always changing. There are some staples that are always there (like visiting old friends), but there are always surprises.
I loved looking at Mark Klett’s Panorama of the Sierra from above Mono Lake including three views by Timothy O’Sullivan. The Nelson has a large collection of landscape Timothy O’Sullivan photographs on display currently, and photographer Mark Klett went to the location of O’Sullivan’s work and filled in the gaps of his photos to create a landscape panorama. Klett’s photos are at different times of day and show different colors and exposures, which really made me think about time causing places to be both permanent and fleeting.
I would love to try something like this with family photos of a childhood vacation to Yellowstone Park. How amazing would it be to have a panorama using photos from my childhood and photos of our kid’s childhood? That’s a trip we’ll be planning in a few years.
Eliza, my mom, and I wanted to visit more of the museum, but a toddler can only not touch things for so long. To the great outdoors we went.
Even the actual building is art.
We enjoyed the sculpture park (which is amazing) a bit before heading to lunch. You can see a click-and-drag panorama of the Nelson sculpture park Jake created, so you’ll feel like you’re standing in the middle of it. (Click on the photo to enter full screen mode; you can click and drag to look around and you can zoom in).
And hey, here’s another post about the Nelson.
Do you have a local art museum? What’s it like?