I was at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City last weekend, and saw for the first time the new addition by architect Steven Holl, that opened to universal praise in 2007. There are many wonderful contrasts between this building and the neo-classical original of 1934. Both work well for the collections they house, and the the ultra-modernist addition – the Bloch Building – which radiates a cool, extraterrestrial glow at night, is scaled to and fully respectful of its older companion.
But for all the differences between the two buildings there is one startling, and revealing constant. The “major benefactors” list of 1934 and that of 2007 both bear the names Hall and Block – as in greeting cards and taxes. Two successful, local families that stayed true to a vision of artistic leadership for the Nelson-Atkins and Kansas City for more than seven decades.
Do we have their equivalents here?