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Adelaide Cobb Ward Sculpture Hall Unveiled
Adelaide Cobb Ward Sculpture Hall (detail).

KANSAS CITY, MO.-On November 4, 2005, the Nelson-Atkins unveiled its new Adelaide Cobb Ward Sculpture Hall, the public’s first chance to begin experiencing the redesigned spaces and extensive reinstallations that are at the center of the ongoing transformation of this leading national art institution. Renovations to the original Beaux-Arts Nelson-Atkins Building and the addition of the new Bloch Building, designed by renowned architect Steven Holl, are expanding the Nelson-Atkins’ campus as part of a strategic vision to offer a dynamic art experience to increasingly diverse audiences and to serve the community for generations to come. The Sculpture Hall will connect the two buildings and serve as the crossroads of the reconfigured Museum. While other spaces from the project have opened previously, the Sculpture Hall and surrounding European Galleries, which will begin opening on a rolling basis this fall and continuing through 2006, are the first to invite the Museum’s visitors to experience the collection in an entirely new context and as part of this new setting.

“This is an important moment for the Museum, our supporters and the community at large to begin to enjoy the benefits of this enormous undertaking.” said Marc F. Wilson, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell Director/CEO of the Museum. “After years of planning, designing, building and installing, we can begin to share our vision of the art experience and the first glimmers of the new pathways, possibilities and viewpoints that the transformed Nelson-Atkins will offer our visitors.”

Adjacent to beloved Kirkwood Hall, the entryway of the original Nelson-Atkins Building, the Sculpture Hall now forms a central gallery connecting the 1933 facility to what will soon be an entrance to the new main lobby in the Bloch Building. This space will provide a pivotal juncture for visitors traveling between the Bloch and Nelson-Atkins buildings. It will also serve as a striking environment in which to highlight three of the Museum’s most monumental sculptures: Adam (1880) by Auguste Rodin, Atlanta and Meleager with the Cayldonian Boar (1564) by Francesco Mosca, and Lion, a 4th century marble sculpture from Attica. Flanking the Hall are four large galleries, whose new installation, when completed, will reveal glimpses of museum masterworks such as Monet’s Water Lilies (1916/20) and Caravaggio’s St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1604) from the central passageway.

“I’m very proud to have been able to contribute to the new sculpture hall. It’s an amazing transformation. The new space introduces visitors to the European galleries and it will be an important link to the new Bloch building.” commented Adelaide Cobb Ward, Nelson Atkins Museum Board Member and long time supporter of the museum’s European Collection.

With the new Bloch Building aligned perpendicularly to the Nelson-Atkins, the Sculpture Hall provides an important formal component of the unified design, connecting the two with a clear pathway that extends from the marble and stone entrance of Kirkwood Hall to the glass and steel lobby of the Bloch Building. This transition exemplifies the counterpoint between old and new that is a key aspect of the aesthetic balance of the campus transformation project. Originally functioning as special exhibition space, the Hall also demonstrates the design teams’ creative reuse of space when re-imagining the Museum as whole. By lifting the ceiling and removing plaster walls that had filled in marble arches at the gallery’s east end, the new layout changes the flow of the Museum and, by connecting the gallery to a staircase that had been on the other side of the wall, redefines the Atkins Stair Hall as a dramatic bridge accentuating the art above and the main lobby below. The staircase and landing have been refurbished with imported marble from Italy and are now lit with four new chandeliers. Based on an original fixture from 1933, these chandeliers were designed to reflect and contribute to the grandiose Beaux-Arts setting.

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