Published: December 3, 2015
KANSAS CITY, MO. — A singular and important gift of Native American art has been unanimously accepted into the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art by its board of trustees. The collection of Joanne and Lee Lyon, acquired over decades, contains a number of masterworks, including a group of 14 Southeastern Woodlands and Delaware bandolier bags believed to be the largest such collection in the world.
“The tremendous generosity of Joanne and Lee Lyon represents a pivotal moment in the history of the Nelson-Atkins,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell chief executive officer and director of the Nelson-Atkins. “These extraordinary objects give greater depth to our Native American collection, and position the museum as the center of research for any scholar studying Southeastern Woodlands art.”
Joanne and Lee Lyon, known in the collecting community for the superb quality of their collection as well as their perceptive judgment and expertise, were methodical in making decisions about where their collection would be gifted. The couple, formerly of Kansas City, lived for many years in Aspen, Colo. Joanne died in May 2013.
“We selected the Nelson-Atkins because the museum presents the art of Native Americans as great art, not as artifacts,” said Lee Lyon. “That was the deciding factor. In our view, no other museum presents American Indian art as well or as sensitively as the Nelson-Atkins.”
The gift consists of 37 historical objects from the Woodlands, Plains, Arctic, California and Southwest, including the group of rare early Nineteenth Century bandolier bags from the Southeast Woodlands and Delaware peoples.
“These bags are often cited as the most beautiful and inventive of all beaded works created in North America,” said Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill senior curator of American Indian art. “As a class, they are distinguished by elegant proportion and superb technical refinement. The complex designs are embroidered with the tiniest of glass beads, and yet they possess a sense of freedom and exuberance — in the finely drawn curvilinear motifs, in the tightly constructed progressions forming the compositions and in the extensive range of colors.”
This gift adds to the couple’s 2012 contribution of eight objects associated with Chief Moses, along with a number of other American Indian works from the Plains and Woodlands and more than 20 pieces of Southwestern jewelry.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is at 45th and Oak Streets. For general information, www.nelson-atkins.org or 816-751-1278.
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