Nelson’s provocative WWI exhibit shows evolution of modernism

Coupling permanent collection works with a handful of stellar loans, “WWI and the Rise of Modernism” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is an unlikely blockbuster. Since it opened in mid-December in the 20th-century galleries, the exhibit has been attracting a steady stream of visitors.


The show tackles an overwhelming topic without being overwhelming. It’s unpretentious but lucid; it mixes horror with humanity minus false sentiment. It gives equal weight to objects of design and what is traditionally considered fine art.

Finally, it’s provocative without telling you what to think. Most of the art speaks very well for itself, no matter what country the artists were from or what languages they spoke.

Organized by Jan Schall, the Nelson’s curator of modern art, “WWI and the Rise of Modernism” did not follow the traditional route to becoming a popular museum show.

The exhibit was assembled in two years, not the usual five to 10

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