At The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, we are continuously looking for new ways to share the results of our provenance research, in an effort to increase transparency and advance the provenance field through the sharing of information. On Provenance Research Day 2022, I am pleased to outline several recent projects, with a focus on web-based and in-gallery initiatives.
For the last decade, we have been adding provenance to individual object records within our online collection database. These narratives are searchable by entering a term in the ‘Provenance’ field of the Advanced Search page. For example, a search for the term ‘Brummer’ will return 99 objects for which Brummer Gallery appears in the provenance. If an object record is called up by other means (e.g., by artist name or title), the provenance can be accessed by expanding the drop-down Provenance field on the right of the screen. Most objects currently on view in the museum’s galleries have their provenance available online, and as we move forward with researching the more than 47,000 objects in the collection, we continuously update the database. New provenance narratives are added almost every day.
Since February 2021, the Nelson-Atkins has published a monthly, serially-released digital catalogue of its French paintings and pastels collection. This catalogue, edited by Dr. Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts, is the culmination of years of intense study into these works, including the most in-depth and comprehensive provenance research ever conducted at the Nelson-Atkins. The entries, including provenance, are searchable, and individual works can be accessed using the menu at the top right of the screen. In addition to provenance, published entries include high-resolution photographs, conservation analysis, lists of published references, exhibition history and a scholarly essay. Recent additions include Vincent van Gogh, Restaurant Rispal at Asnières (1887), which was in the collection of Hugo L. Moser and his wife Maria in Berlin, Zurich, Heemstede and New York for almost fifty years. The catalogue essay and scholarly research on the Van Gogh, including provenance research, was completed by Curatorial Associate and catalogue project manager Meghan L. Gray. Two new entries are added on the last Friday of every month, so visit the website often to keep up with our latest research!
In addition to online initiatives, the Nelson-Atkins organized an in-gallery exhibition in 2021 on the beginning of the museum’s collection. Origins: Collecting to Create the Nelson-Atkins discussed the sources of the museum’s first acquisitions, highlighting dealers and collectors who contributed significantly to the core collection. One of these dealer spotlights was on C. T. Loo, from whom the Nelson-Atkins acquired about 120 objects, including most elements of the museum’s Chinese temple room. A hand-crafted model created by Loo’s staff to market the Chinese temple space to the Nelson-Atkins featured prominently in the exhibition. Dr. Ling-En Lu, Curator, Chinese Art, presented her extensive research on the temple, including provenance, at last year’s “Exhibiting East Asian Art in the West” symposium, presented by the Center for the Art of East Asia. You can watch the recording of her presentation online. Her paper is scheduled for publication by Art Media Resources, Inc. and the Center of the Art of East Asia, University of Chicago in the forthcoming Exhibiting East Asian Art in a Global Context, expected Spring 2023.
Provenance research at the Nelson-Atkins is a collaborative effort. Most of our curatorial team conducts research on the collections for which they are responsible, and we are richly supported in our efforts by a dedicated library staff, most especially Senior Archivist Tara Laver. We also welcome collaboration with our colleagues at other institutions, and I urge provenance researchers, curators, and others in this field to reach out to us with any questions you might have about our research, or if we can help support you in any way. We don’t have all the answers, but we believe that by working together, we can achieve so much more than we could by working separately. Please feel free to reach out to us at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy 2022 Provenance Research Day!