Kansas City Museum Obtains $65 Million Photography Collection

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, has obtained the Hallmark Photographic Collection, one of the country's largest collections of American photography, the Associated Press reports.

Neither the company nor the museum has made public the terms of their agreement, but museum officials acknowledged that a "significant portion" of the collection was donated and the balance was purchased with funds from the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The collection — roughly 6,500 works by more than 900 artists valued at an estimated $65 million — was owned by Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards. Its widely varied contents include iconic Life magazine shots; 320 works by influential photographer Harry Callahan; images by Alfred Stieglitz; William Wegman's droll pictures of dogs taking on human roles; and works by Andy Warhol, Annie Liebovitz, and Dorothea Lange.

According to museum spokesman Scott Stuart, the collection will be housed in Nelson-Atkins's new $350 million Bloch Building, scheduled to open next year, and what is displayed will change several times a year. About thirty pieces are now on display in the museum's existing building. Hallmark, which began collecting fine art in 1949 and started its photography collection in 1964, still owns more than two thousand pieces of art.

Keith Davis, longtime director of Hallmark's fine arts program, will also be curator of photography at Nelson-Atkins. "It's one of the finest holdings of American photography ever put together," said Davis. "It's a collection that would be exceedingly hard to duplicate today under any circumstances."

Matt Sedensky. "Kansas Museum Gets $65M Photo Collection." Associated Press 01/17/2006.