KANSAS CITY, MO.- A major painting by Khalif Tahir Thompson was recently unveiled at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Summertime (2022), a large-scale diptych recently created by the artist, is a promised gift and the most recent example of the generosity of Kansas City collectors Christena and William Gautreaux.

“We are thrilled to be able to feature a dramatic and beautiful work by an emerging artist, thanks to the foresight of our friends and supporters Bill and Christy Gautreaux,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director and CEO. “Their commitment to a broader, more inclusive contemporary art history, one that foregrounds the contributions of Black and African American makers, aligns with the Nelson-Atkins’ values of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access, and the increasing diversification of our contemporary art collections.”

A rising star among emerging Black artists, Khalif Tahir Thompson (born Queens, New York, 1995) has, in just a few years since obtaining their BFA from SUNY Purchase, been receiving acclaim for their multi-layered, figural representations of Black life and experience. More than just portraits of distinct individuals, the works are also layered with symbolic associations through letters and numbers, suggesting the many facets of an individual’s identity. Thompson’s process contributes to this effect. They begin with an abstracted background, over which they layer elements of paper, fabric, and paint, moving at last towards vividly realized representational forms.

“We are intentional collectors of emerging artists of color. This large scale figurative and mixed media work has a great depth of cultural heritage,” said Gautreaux. “We are grateful for Valerie Cueto of Cueto Art Advisory and Audrey Bossuyt of Zidoun-Bossuyt entrusting us as collectors and supporting the placement of this work at the Nelson-Atkins. I have no doubt that the artist is a rising star, and now is the time to access the work.”

Summertime, like Thompson’s recent work, is larger in scale than previous canvases, with a decorative background that is less stylized and more descriptive of a specific domestic interior than earlier work, particularly the work created while still an undergraduate, when the artist first came to critical attention. The painting reflects Thompson’s confidence after attending multiple important residences, including Robert Blackburn’s New York-based Printmaking Workshop in 2018 and

Kehinde Wiley’s Black I Rock in Senegal in 2022. Two strong, smiling, and confident mature Black women, in matching yellow dresses, stand in a comfortable bedroom full of books, plants, and art, the windows open to a brilliant blue sky.

Although Thompson has just begun an MFA in painting at Yale University, their work already possesses a laudatory confidence and consistency. The Nelson-Atkins is grateful and excited to become an early collector of his work thanks to the generosity of Bill and Christena Gautreaux.

Summertime will join important examples of contemporary figuration in the museum’s collection by Black and African American artists, including Thompson’s mentor, Kehinde Wiley.

The promised gift of Summertime is the latest in a half-dozen gifts and promised gifts from the Gautreaux family within the last decade. The majority of these works dramatically expand theMuseum’s holdings of Black and African American artists, from legendary West Coast Minimalist and conceptual artist Fred Eversley (American, b. 1941) to the bold figuration of British Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (British, b. 1977), the multilayered, evocative collages of Deborah Roberts (American, b. 1962), and the bold textiles of Kansas City’s own Sara Sonié Joe Thompson-Ruffin (American, b. 1951). The Gautreaux family’s support of local artists through gifts and promised gifts to the museum also includes works by James Brinsfield (American, b. 1949) and Archie Scott Gobber (American, b. 1965).

The painting Summertime is on view in Gallery L2 in the Bloch Building.