ART SPACE(S): Denver Art Museum
Six Highlights at DAM
Beyond its angular edifice, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) offers artwork to suit any taste and interpretative bridges to engage any audience. This article outlines aspects I noticed from my recent visit to the artspace located in downtown Denver.
The museum’s history began in 1893, but the buildings that house its 70,000 works of art are more contemporary. DAM’s North structure, designed in 1971 by Italian architect Gio Ponti, is currently under renovation and will reopen in 2021. The construction is well underway but does not disturb the visitor experience or parking.
The Frederic C. Hamilton Building (main exhibition space) designed by international architect Daniel Libeskind, opened in 2006. The museum’s geometric exterior and reflective surface mirror Denver’s rocky landscape. Interiors fuse expansive exhibition spaces with pockets of concrete planes and light that echo rock crystal formations. The museum’s natural daylight, clear wayfinding, and open structure make for a pleasant visit.
DAM’s encyclopedic collection spans continents and centuries. Many of the pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art objects I studied in art history textbooks are part of their collection. Moreover, they hold an extensive selection of American Indian art. The museum also concentrates on European and American, Asian, African, Oceanic artworks that vary from paintings, textiles, photography, and sculpture. Whether you are excited about Baroque painting or are fascinated by Precolumbian textiles, there are objects to satisfy diverse interests.
Encyclopedic Art Collection: a universal survey of art and cultural objects that connect many different cultures and time periods.
The painting above entitled, Reapers (Harvest) by Kenneth Miller, caught my notice while making my way through the exhibitions. The painter moved to Taos in 1924 and was soon inspired by its Spanish American population. The combination of the western subject matter and the painted forms’ reference to European paintings such as Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners, resonated with me because of my relocation to Colorado and my passion for art history.
The museum’s third floor includes a family space that allows children to build, play, create, and forge connections with exhibitions. This active space is currently titled, A Walk in the Woods and relates directly to the exhibition, Stampede: Animals in Art, a show demonstrating how artists use animals in their work both as a form of inspiration and as a tool to represent their ideas. This multimedia show is particularly family-friendly as it connects with children’s love of animals and uses examples from many different cultures/time periods.
Overall, the DAM is inviting for families and young visitors. General admission is free for all youth under 18, every day. The layout of the museum is spacious enough to let children walk a few paces ahead and incorporates various interactive areas.
Apart from the third floor’s family space, DAM also has a lively studio that combines hands-on artmaking and local artists. The studio changes depending on artworks on-view. The current space is inspired by the exhibition Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker. Visitors can stop and create a print or watch artist-led demonstrations.
In several of the exhibition spaces, they provided supplies and prompts to help support the visitors’ interactive journey through the museum. Art explorers of all ages can borrow a sketchbook, settle down with a portable seat, get up-close with binoculars, or play scavenger hunts.
As a former museum professional, one of the things I notice about art institutions is how they serve visitors with different vernaculars, impairments or disabilities. DAM offers wayfinding, prompts, printed materials, and some wall texts in Spanish. The museum’s bilingual efforts illustrate their commitment to the local Hispanic community in Denver. The exhibition on Rembrandt’s prints provides enlarged text, braille, and magnifying boards for people with low vision. Moreover, the spaces between objects are ample enough to allow visitors in wheelchairs to move about with ease.
I highly recommend the Denver Art Museum not only because of how inclusive they are but also for the quality of their artwork and dynamic interpretation.
Interested in learning more? Check out the links below for people, places, and artworks referenced in this article.
The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet