Since the early 20th century, artists have embraced an ever-expanding array of subjects, processes, and materials to explore the pressing issues of their time. Works in the Spencer’s collection of contemporary art explore a range of conceptual, aesthetic, and human issues, spanning social critique, cross-cultural exchanges, racism, climate change, feminism, and more.
Areas of strength within the collection include moving image and sculpture works from Asia, Africa, and the United States. Noteworthy are works from the collection of art critic Gene Swenson, which provide a telling glimpse of 1960s New York art, and the Mary Lou Vasant Hughes Collection of more than 90 Haitian painting from the 1970s, acquired in most cases directly from artists. The collection also includes significant holdings by contemporary artists associated with Kansas, including Wendell Castle, Roger Shimomura, and Ann Hamilton. During the last decade, new acquisitions of media and installation art have greatly enhanced the Museum’s ability to address topics of global relevance. Regular artist residencies at the Museum further enliven and expand the contemporary collection.