This groundbreaking exhibition will unite the Plains Indian masterworks found in European and North American collections, from pre-contact to contemporary, ranging from a 2,000-year-old Human Effigy stone pipe to 18th-century painted robes to a 2011 beaded adaptation of designer shoes.
The distinct Plains aesthetic—singular, ephemeral and materially rich—will be revealed through an array of forms and media: painting and drawing; sculptural works in stone, wood, antler and shell; porcupine quill and glass bead embroidery; feather work; painted robes depicting figures and geometric shapes; richly ornamented clothing; composite works; and ceremonial objects.
Together the 140 works will reveal the accomplishments of Plains Indian artists, not only as the makers of objects that sustain tradition and embody change, but as the bearers of individual creative expression and innovation. Many nations are represented—Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, Mesquakie, Kansa and others. Objects will travel from France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and the United States.
The exhibition is being organized by Museé du quai Branly in Paris in collaboration with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It is curated by Gaylord Torrence, one of the nation's leading scholars of Plains Indian art and the Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins.
In Kansas City, the exhibition is supported by The Sosland Family, Fred and Virginia Merrill, Alan and Berte Hirschfield, James and Elizabeth Tinsman, John and Kay Callison, Mick and Kathy Aslin, Henry W. Bloch, Donald J. Hall, Rex and Pat Lucke, Landon and Sarah Rowland, the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust, the Committee of 100, the Donald J. Hall Initiative and our Honorary Committee. Additional support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Click Here for a bibliography of resources about the Plains Indians and be sure to visit the Spencer Art Research Library to explore even more.
To help announce The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is setting up tipis on the south lawn of the museum and in unexpected places in the city. The intent is to share the historical importance and innovative qualities of this perfect form of architecture.
Tipis are widely regarded as a classic architectural form, and they symbolized the nomadic culture of the Plains Indians. They are both beautiful and functional as one of the finest portable dwellings ever created. In the Plains Indian culture, they supported lives on horseback in pursuit of the buffalo. They could be quickly put up and taken down, and they withstood even the harshest weather conditions. Some tipis, painted with visionary or pictographic designs, also became works of art.
The tipis at the Nelson-Atkins are open to visitors from dawn to dusk, and food and drink are allowed inside. The museum asks that there be no climbing or other activity that might compromise the integrity of the structure.
Explore the Plains Indian masterworks and listen to featured speaker Kevin Gover, Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.Society of Fellows Celebration of Plains Indians Dinner
After the opening reception, join us for a feast inspired by contemporary Native dishes. Tables available for purchase.Member Preview Day
Enjoy your exclusive member benefit and experience the new featured exhibition before anyone else in Kansas City. You see it FIRST, you see it FREE!Enhanced Art Experience
Upper-level members are treated to guest speaker, White House advisor Jodi Gillette, along with a performance by the Haskell Indians Nations University and Little Soldier. Enjoy appetizers, cocktails and entertainment before joining fellow Friends of Art members for Member Night.Member Night
Enjoy a performance by the Haskell Indian Nations University Dancers and Little Solder. As an added treat members will enjoy a higher discount of 15% in the Museum Store. Cash bar available.Member-Only Hours
View the featured exhibition before the museum opens to the public during our special members-only morning hours. The first five attendees each day will receive a free gift.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
March 2–May 10, 2015
Enjoy performances by Haskell Indian Nations University, award-winning Royal Valley Dancers and Native Pride Dancers, hands-on activities and demonstrations by artists to celebrate the opening of The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky.Artists' Panel
Four contemporary Native American artists featured in The Plains Indians exhibition, Jamie Okuma, Rhonda Holy Bear, Bently Spang and Kevin Pourier, join curator Gaylord Torrence in a lively conversation.Friday Night Films
Experience a series of films that capture the voice and unconquerable spirit of the Plains Indian people as they reflect on their culture and history from the past to the present. Introductions and short films precede each screening.
Kansas City premiere of a unique film featuring an all-Indian cast, recently restored and inducted into the Library of Congress' 2013 National Film Registry. Directed by Norbert Niles, 1920. 80 minutes. Silent film.October 17
Documentary that looks at the Hollywood Indian through a century of cinema and how the myth of "the Injun" has influenced the world's (mis)understanding of Natives. Directed by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond, 2009. 85 minutes.October 24
Docudrama about the experiences and impact of the Canadian government's residential school system through the eyes of two First Nations children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. Directed by Tim Wolochatiuk, 2013. 88 minutes.
A group of international scholars, along with curator Gaylord Torrence, will share new insights garnered from The Plains Indians exhibition.
(September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015)
Exhibition ticket required. Drop-in tours 1 p.m. Wednesday–Friday.
Museum guides available for questions and meaningful conversation.
6–8:15 p.m., Thursday and Friday
1–4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday