Art & Entertaiment


Contemporary Art – Review of a Kansas City Museum Dedicated to Nothing But This Period

Contemporary Art – Review of a Kansas City Museum Dedicated to Nothing But This Period

Many large art museums have special sections for contemporary art. But not many specialize in it the way an art museum in Kansas City, MO, does. This well-supported all-free galleries and parking museum offers something for all ages.

What is contemporary art?

One internet definition says it is “the art that has been and continues to be created during our lifetimes.” That is, it is the art relative to us now. Another definition says it is all the art made since World War II. Still another one says it is the art from the 1960’s or 70’s up to now.

In other words, it is the art created after the so-called Modern Art period, which runs from the latter half of the 1800’s up to about the 1970’s. Certain art historians see 1970 as a distinctive cutoff year for the beginning of contemporary art. About then is when the world seemed to have tired of modern art. About then is when new emerging movements of unclassified art began, and possibly exploded to a degree. Also, about then, many more artists came onto the scene with works that were done much faster than much of the older traditional types.

Collectively, though, contemporary art is much more socially conscious than that from the previous periods. Much of it from the last 40 years relates to relevant issues, like, globalization, equal rights, fascism, multicultures, genetic engineering, politics, AIDS or disease relief, green living, saving the planet, religious issues and so on. Thus, viewers of this more recent form could look for the deeper meanings expressed in it even if difficult to see right away.

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The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.

This museum is housed in a modern high-tech low-lying building from the early 90’s. From above, it looks like a large bird in flight. Much of its permanent collection is a gift from its founders, Bebe and R. Crosby Kemper. In addition to the museum’s easy entrance from its two parking sides, it has a large drive-under entrance on the east side for buses, minibuses, and other vehicles in all weather conditions. Another parking lot is also available ½-block further north. Thus, walking is minimized for its patrons.

Most of the modern and contemporary art shown there is from the world over. Besides the ever-growing permanent collection, as many as 12 on-loan exhibits are shown annually. Recently, a traveling collection of paintings by the Wyeths involved both the modern and contemporary art periods because the Wyeths comprise several generations of artists.

A portion of the collection that stands out in the museum’s hallways are the blown glass works by Dale Chihuly. One large piece, which hangs over a doorway inside, is made of select clear crystal. Since the well-known high-end company that provided this crystal is now out of business, this unique piece has become priceless.

This museum has three separate outlets including its main building as follows.

1. Main building. (4420 Warwick Blvd). Provides permanent and traveling exhibitions, installations, performance works, film-video series, lectures, radio broadcasts, and concerts. Gives free group tours and educational programs and similar events for all ages, including family and children’s classes. Gift shop and cafe available here. Hours: Tues-Thurs 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-5pm. Closed Monday and on major holidays. Cafe hours: lunch – Tues-Sat 11am-2:30pm, dinner – Fri 5:30pm-9:30pm, brunch – Sun 11am-2:30pm. Admission and parking are free; small donations accepted.

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2. Kemper East (200 East 44th Street, 1-block north of the main building). Displays various parts of the permanent collection. Hours: Tues-Fri 10am-4pm. Free.

3. Kemper at the Crossroads (33 W 19th Street). Located in the downtown arts district. Gives special exhibitions and programs, sometimes the works of emerging artists. Hours: Fri 8pm-12-pm, Sat 12pm-6pm. Free.

To learn more about contemporary art itself and this museum, see these sites.