Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 1994 in Kansas City, Missouri. With a $5 million annual budget and approximately 75,000 visitors each year, it is Missouri's first and largest contemporary museum.[1]

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.jpg
Established1994 (1994)
Location4420 Warwick Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri, United States
CoordinatesCoordinates: 39°2′47″N 94°35′7″W / 39.04639°N 94.58528°W / 39.04639; -94.58528
TypeArt museum


The core of the museum's permanent collection is the Bebe and R. Crosby Kemper Jr. Collection, a gift of the museum's founders. In May 2013, both Kempers stepped down from museum board of trustees, with their daughter, Mary Kemper Wolf, becoming the chairman of the board.[2] R. Crosby Kemper Jr. died in 2014.[3]


Some of the Kemper's collection, 2005

The Kemper Museum permanent collection includes more than 1,400 works created after the 1913 Armory Show to works by present-day artists. Artists in the permanent collection include Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, Tom Otterness, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Bruce Nauman, William Wegman, Nancy Graves, Dale Chihuly, Arthur Dove, Louise Bourgeois, Andrew Wyeth, Fairfield Porter, Georgia O'Keeffe, Frank Stella, Lesley Dill, Romare Bearden, Christian Boltanski, Robert Mapplethorpe, Garry Winogrand, Barbara Grad, Kojo Griffin, Jim Hodges, Wayne Thiebaud, Hung Liu, Marcus Jansen, and Stephen Scott Young. In 2000, the museum received 15 works by artists including the photographer Nan Goldin from the collection of Peter Norton.[4] Along with the collection, the museum also maintains a schedule of self-organized and traveling exhibitions. Each year, the it presents 10–12 special exhibitions in its galleries.

The museum opened in 1994 with an exhibition of rare early series of 28 watercolors by Georgia O'Keeffe, known as the "Canyon Suite" (1916-1918), that had never been shown publicly as a group. In 1999, the paintings' authenticity was challenged because the paper used for some of them could not have been obtained in the United States from 1916 to 1918, when O'Keeffe taught art at West Texas State Normal College in Canyon. The National Gallery of Art subsequently excluded the "Canyon Suite" from O'Keeffe's catalogue raisonne, and Gerald Peters Gallery refunded the $5 million that the Kemper Museum paid for them.[5][6]


Kemper Museum’s 23,200-square-foot concrete, steel, and glass building, constructed from 1992 to 1994 at a cost of $6.6 million, was designed by architect Gunnar Birkerts.[7] The structure has a large central atrium under an articulated skylight. Two wings extend from either side of the atrium. The main gallery hosts three major exhibitions each year. Side galleries present works from the permanent collection in rotation. Works of art are always on view in the atrium and the corridors of each wing. San Francisco Chronicle noted that Birkerts “used concrete, glass and steel in ways that seemed to flow, almost as if shaped by hand”.[8]


Café Sebastienne combines the worlds of contemporary art and contemporary cuisine in the heart of the museum. The dining area features 110 paintings collectively known as "The History of Art" by renowned African-American artist Frederick J. Brown. The restaurant was named after his daughter, Sebastienne Nicole Brown.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Kinzer, Stephen Kinzer (April 24, 2002). "IN THE MIDDLE; What's This? An Art Boom In the Heartland". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  2. ^ Spencer, Laura (May 1, 2013). "Kemper Founders Step Down From Museum Board". KCUR-FM. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  3. ^ Thorson, Alice (September 6, 2014). "Post-Crosby, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art looks to the future". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  4. ^ Michael Kimmelman (January 18, 2000), Handing Out Modern Art By the Bushel; A Couple Gives 1,000 Works To 29 Museums, Big and Small New York Times.
  5. ^ "28 O'Keeffe Paintings in Doubt as Experts Challenge Authenticity". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. March 12, 2000. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  6. ^ Gretchen Reynolds (March 7, 2000), If It's Not an O'Keeffe, Exactly What Is It? New York Times.
  7. ^ "Modern Art Museum Opening in Kansas City". The New York Times. October 2, 1994. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  8. ^ Schudel, Matt (August 20, 2017). "Gunnar Birkerts, architect who emphasized light and elegance, dies". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 5, 2019.

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