Back to Exhibitions

September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015

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.

Members: FREE

Adults: $12
Seniors over 55: $10
Students with ID: $8
Children 12 & under: FREE

Learn More

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.

The Tipis Have Arrived!

Photo by Leslie R Adams

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.

Member Programs

Society of Fellows & Business Council Opening Reception
The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky
Wednesday, September 17
6–8 p.m. | FREE

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
Wednesday, September 17
7:30 p.m. | Cost is $200
Call 816.751.1ART(1278) for tickets or tables

After the opening reception, join us for a feast inspired by contemporary Native dishes. Tables available for purchase.

Member Preview Day
The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky
Thursday, September 18
10 a.m.–9 p.m. | FREE

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
6–7:30 p.m.
Thursday, September 18 | FREE

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
Thursday, September 18
7–9 p.m. | FREE

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
The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky
Friday, September 19–Sunday, September 21
9–10 a.m. | FREE

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.

Gauntlets, Sioux-Métis artist, North or South Dakota, ca. 1890. Native tanned leather, glass and brass beads, cotton cloth, 14 1/2 x 8 inches each. Hirschfield Family Collection, Courtesy of Berte and Alan Hirschfield.

Nellie Two Bear Gates, (Mahpiya Bogawin, Gathering of Clouds Woman), 1854-?, Lakota (Teton Sioux), Standing Rock Reservation, North or South Dakota. Valise, 1903. Commercial and native tanned leather, glass beads, metal, 9 1/2 x 15 inches. Hirschfield Family Collection, Courtesy of Berte and Alan Hirschfield.

T.C. Cannon (Pai-doung-u-day, One Who Stands in the Sun), 1946-1978, Caddo-Kiowa, Oklahoma. Grandmother Gestating Father and the Washita River Runs Ribbon-Like, 1975. Canvas, oil, acrylic, 50 1/2 x 40 3/4 inches. Collection of Nancy and Richard Bloch.

Shield, Arikara artist, North Dakota, ca. 1850. Buffalo rawhide, native tanned leather, pigment, Diameter: 20 inches. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Purchase: the Donald D. Jones Fund for American Indian Art, 2004.35.

Robe, Central Plains artists, ca. 1800-1830. Native tanned leather, pigment, porcupine quills, 58 3/8 x 88 1/4 inches. musée du quai Branly, 71.1886.17.1.

FREE Roundtrip Trolley
from the Nelson-Atkins to the Plaza Art Fair

Ride the Trolley! Pick up at the Nelson-Atkins Bloch Entrance and the southwest corner of the Plaza Tennis Courts.

The trolley runs roundtrip every 30 minutes.
Friday, 9/19 | 4:30-9 p.m.
Saturday, 9/20 | 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday, 9/21 | 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Contemporary Artists Represented In the Exhibition

Exhibition Tour Dates

The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky will be on view exclusively at the Nelson-Atkins and these additional venues:

musée du quai Branly
April 7–July 20, 2014

New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
March 2–May 10, 2015

Exhibition Publication

Plains Indian The Plains Indians:
Artists of Earth and Sky

Available in the Museum Store | $65

Public Programs

Exhibition Opening Celebration
An Afternoon of Native American Art, Dance and Song
Sunday, September 21
Noon–4 p.m. | FREE

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
Plains Indians Art Today
Saturday, October 4
2–3 p.m. | Atkins Auditorium | $5

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
Plains Indians' Perspectives
Atkins Auditorium | FREE

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.

October 10
The Daughter of Dawn
6:30 p.m. | Free

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
Reel Injun
6:30 p.m. | Free

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
We Were Children
6:30 p.m. | Free

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.

Panel Discussion
Everything We Know About the Art of Plains Indians
Sunday, October 19
1–3 p.m. | Atkins Auditorium | $5

A group of international scholars, along with curator Gaylord Torrence, will share new insights garnered from The Plains Indians exhibition.

Exhibition Tours
(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

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.

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