Road Trip Report: Inside the New Denver Art Museum



The redesigned and expanded Denver Art Museum is a road-worthy new destination on Colorado’s cultural map, with the new, high-profile, landscape-altering 50,000-square-foot Sie Visitor Center, reconstructed galleries and redesigned in the 50 years of the museum. the old Gio Ponti building, a new industry-leading education center for youth programs, a new sensory garden, two new restaurants, etc. pandemic delay).

Yes, $ 175 million still goes a long way for a museum expansion.

But for Aspenites and Bauhaus enthusiasts and Herbert Bayer from Aspen, the first stop must be the new design gallery on the 2nd floor and the interactive design studio.

It includes “Herbert Bayer’s Earthworks,” an exhibition devoted to Bayer’s earth sculptures in Aspen that began in the 1950s, “Earth Mound” and Anderson Park, as well as his last Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park in Washington.

A Herbert Bayer earthwork model on display for the first time in the new Denver Art Museum. (James Florio / Courtesy photo)

The exhibit features 16 unseen Bayer pieces for public consumption, including pastel drawings and pencil renderings of the original mound, sketches of the earth mound surrounded by water, photographs and sketches, and collages by what would become Anderson Park as well as a 1982 three-dimensional model of plaster and other materials for an “environmental mound” during preparations for Mill Creek.

“I don’t think these have ever been shown,” said Darrin Alfred, the museum’s curator of architecture and design. “To be able to have this opportunity, to browse the archives and find these works in particular, it’s incredible.

Steps away in the Design Studio, an interactive display – combining traditional boxes behind glass with sliding drawers that can hold much more – is one more Bayer treasure being shown to the public for the first time. The collections are divided into three large drawers, divided into “Colorado Ski Country,” sharing some of his more familiar early Aspen ski marketing work, “Landscapes,” a fascinating group of works on paper inspired by ‘Aspen which depicts mountain landscapes, Hallam Lake and studies of flowers and plant life, and “Native Plants” which brings together pastel drawings of various pods, plants and driftwood dated 1947, which would have been Bayer’s first summer in Aspen. It’s Bayer as an outdoor artist – showing us what he’s seen here, including a flock of sheep in his early days as an Aspenite.

The Design Studio also prominently displays maps of the early to mid-1970s ski runs of Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass by John Rieben, who introduced the International Typographical Stye to the ski area and defined the map of ski.

Besides the widely expanded design collection where I found Bayer’s corners, the highlights of the reopened galleries are the huge Native North American collection – excitingly mixing historic pieces with contemporary works – and the collection Western art on the top floor of the new Martin building.

A new gallery showcasing North American Indigenous art from the Denver Art Museum. (James Florio / Courtesy photo)

The Western art collection flows onto new balcony spaces – built by Ponti with dramatically curved turrets, but previously inaccessible to the public – that offer panoramic views of Denver and the mountains to the west. It’s a touch of conservation that’s as funky as it is obvious, placing West American art in its most appropriate setting where the actual Rockies compete for your attention against their artistic representations.

“It’s an extraordinary platform for looking at the landscape to connect the collection from the American West to the American West,” said architect Jorge Silvetti, whose Boston-based firm shares architectural credit for the new project. with Colorado Fentress Architects.

The 7th floor rooftop terraces of the Denver Art Museum are open to the public for the first time following the new renovation. (James Florio / Courtesy photo)

When I broke up with my designated guide and my group of journalists at a media preview in mid-October, I stepped out onto one of the terraces and found Silvetti alone, staring at the horizon. “Oh. My.God,” he said to himself, an appropriate response to the setting if there is one, before turning to greet me.

Herbert Bayer reappears in the Western Art collection. His “Green Center Over Horizon” (1970) here takes pride of place among four large-format works exhibited on freestanding walls – an Agnes Martin, an Ethel Magafan and “The American Indian (Russell Means)” by Andy Warhol complementing this Bayer signature.

The Bayers are one of the countless works that have emerged from the proverbial mothballs of the museum’s collection and brought to light for the public in the reinvented museum.

“When you work on a new building, you work on new galleries, you get really energetic and inspired to bring in new art, new collections and new gifts,” said museum director Christoph Henrich.

Or as Lanny Martin, the donor whose $ 25 million started this project, said: “It’s not just a renovation, it’s a re-imagining of the way we show art objects. reviews that we present to all of you.

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One of the new galleries of the American West at the Denver Art Museum. (James Florio / Courtesy photo)


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