While there are an abundance of activities in Denver and its surrounding area, a destination that should particularly stand out is the Denver Art Museum. The Art Museum renovated and expanded in October 2021 with a build out of the north campus. The updates include a brand-new welcome center and renovation of one of the oldest art museum buildings, the 50-year-old Ponti-designed building.
We talked with members of the Denver Art Museum team about the museum, renovations, and unique exhibits that are a MUST see when visiting the Denver area.
When did the art museum first open?
“The museum was founded in 1893 as the Denver Artists’ Club. Throughout its history, the Denver Art Museum has had several temporary homes, including the public library, a downtown mansion and a portion of the Denver City and County Building, before opening its own galleries on 14th Avenue Parkway, where the museum campus now sits. In 1971, the museum opened the Gio Ponti-designed Martin Building, and the Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Building opened in 2006. The renovated Martin Building and new Sie Welcome Center opened in October 2021 (the 50th anniversary of the Martin Building), completing and unifying the museum campus.
- More info about the DAM’s history: https://www.denverartmuseum.org/en/history”
What is the history behind the design/architecture of the museum, if any?
Designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates, the Denver Art Museum first opened the Martin Building in 1971. The eight-story, 210,000-square-foot building is Gio Ponti’s only completed project in the United States and is one of the first-ever high-rise art museums. The renovation of the Martin Building realized Ponti’s original vision for visitor access to stunning city and mountain views from the 7th floor and brought new light to many key design elements—including the iconic oval entrance and geometric windows.
- More info about the DAM’s buildings: https://www.denverartmuseum.org/en/buildings”
How many exhibits does the museum usually hold/how many temporary exhibits show at a time?
“The museum is able to host several traveling exhibitions at a time in three dedicated spaces inside the Hamilton Building as well as permanent collection galleries. The Martin Building includes the renovated Bonfils-Stanton Gallery which will host special exhibitions created from the museum’s own collections. Additionally, gallery spaces in both buildings feature the museum’s global art collections, typically for longer periods of time.”
Are there any portions of the museum that you feel are unique to the Denver/Colorado area?
“Its location in the Rocky Mountain West and its 128-year history allows the Denver Art Museum to share a unique visual exploration of the city and region through our Indigenous Arts of North America and Western American Art collections. The redesigned Indigenous Arts of North America galleries prioritize Indigenous perspectives and integrate contemporary and historical works. Gallery labels provide viewpoints on objects from Indigenous peoples, and videos throughout the gallery offer first-hand accounts from Indigenous artists; a section of the gallery titled “Home/Land” highlights works by artists from the local Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute tribes (on whose original homeland the Denver Art Museum sits). The Petrie Institute of Western American Art encompasses two centuries of paintings, sculptures and works on paper related to the West, and promotes scholarship in the field; as a result, the DAM is able to tell a more comprehensive story of American art in the West.
The expansion of the Martin Building’s 7th floor galleries, including two new terraces for visitor access to views of the city and mountains from Gio Ponti’s iconic scoops, presents the opportunity to visually explore American art from a western perspective, as told through the Western American Art collection, and then take in the modern-day view of the front range from the new terraces.
The museum’s global art collections are also strong in several other areas. The Architecture and Design collection consists of more than 18,000 objects, comprising one of the preeminent modern and contemporary design collections of any comprehensive museum in the United States. And the Mayer Center of Latin American Art at the DAM totals more than 3000 objects that represent a broad range of the artistic production from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Southwestern United States—the largest and most comprehensive collection in the United States of art produced in Latin America between the 1600s and the 1800s.
How long were the renovations being planned and designed?
“Planning for the renovation of the Martin Building began in 2012 as part of the DAM’s Vision 2021 strategic plan. Following several years of planning and fundraising, construction began in November 2017, and the museum reopened the renovated building and new Sie Welcome Center with a community free day and opening day celebration on October 24, 2021.”
What are some of the additions to the museum with the renovation?
“Key project elements included bringing the museum’s world-class education programs to the center of the campus with the new Morgridge Creative Hub, expanding gallery spaces, completing Gio Ponti’s original vision for visitors access to the stunning 7th-floor views, exterior site improvements, and updating environmental and other key systems to current-generation technology. In addition to renovating the Martin Building, the construction of the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center created a new visitor entrance, event and programming space, two new onsite dining options—The Ponti, a sit-down restaurant, and Café Gio, a quick-service café—and a purpose-built art conservation lab.
- For more on the Martin Building, visit https://www.denverartmuseum.org/en/martin-building-project”
KLIK USA was lucky to be a part of this incredible project, featuring the KLIK LEDpod XL series to welcome people into the Art Museum.
Denver Art Museum Communications + Marketing Team Members
Architect: Fentress Architects
Engineer: M-E Engineers
Designer: Buro Happold – Wei Liu, Gabe Guilliams, James Clotfelter, and Chris Coulter
Photographer: James Florio