Denver Art Museum’s Highly Anticipated Home Improvement Centers Indigenous Voices | Smart News
Fifty years after the Denver Art Museum (DAM) opened its doors for the first time, its skyscraper Lanny & Sharon Martin Building looks more or less like 1971: a modernist facade resembling a castle with thin asymmetrical windows and semi-circular sections carved into its roof.
Inside, however, a recent $ 150 million renovation transformed each of the Colorado Museum’s seven floors. By a declaration, workers renovated the building from top to bottom, adding rooftop space, a conservation center and an additional elevator shaft to support the crowds flocking to the growing state capital. (As Hilarie M. Sheets reports for the Art journal, DAM attendance has more than doubled over the past decade to reach approximately 900,000 visitors each year.)
All in all, writes Jennifer Castor for Rocky Mountain PBS, the project added more than 30,000 square feet of exhibition space to the Martin Building, formerly known as the North Building. Italian architect Gio Ponti designed the original structure with Denver-based architects James Sudler and Joal Cronenwett.
The museum campus also features a new 50,000 square foot event space surrounded by 25 foot high curved glass panels. Nicknamed the Sie Visitor Center, the circular structure connects the Martin Building to another architectural gem on the DAM campus: the Frédéric C. Hamilton Building, a silvery, spaceship-like structure with a pointed “bow” that appears to hover precariously above Denver’s 13th Avenue.
Staff have spent the past four years reinventing the museum’s galleries and educational spaces, Jesse Sarles reports for CBS4. Curators intentionally infused all galleries with works of art by modern and contemporary artists. According to Joanne Ostrow of Colorado Sun, about 20 percent of the contemporary works currently on display were previously in storage.
The expansion allows the museum to put more of its encyclopedic collections (some 70,000 works hosted in 12 collections) on display. The DAM collection latin american art, for example, now occupies the fourth floor of the Martin Building. Highlights include a portrait of a woman with a pearl earring, painted by Luis García Hevia in colonial Colombia around 1850, and The mother of the river (1952), an abstract swirl of misty grays and vivid pinks by Chilean painter Roberto Sebastián Antonio Matta Echaurren.
On a floor dedicated to West American art, museum enthusiasts can explore the various ways in which artists portrayed the vast American West, by Theodore Waddell abstract Idyllic 19th Century Bison Representations by Albert Bierstadt views to the abstract expressionist of Ethel Magafan Spring in the mountains (1961). Visitors can then step out onto one of the two newly constructed rooftop decks, which offer stunning views of the Rocky Mountains themselves.
“It’s something fresh, something new”, artist Adrian H. Molina, who was involved in the redesign process, told CBS4. The new galleries “[transport] you have an authentic space that allows you to connect with art to place yourself in the place and time where art was created, ”he adds.
Of particular note are the indigenous arts of North America section on the third floor. It has a gallery, “CountryWith works by artists from the local Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute tribes, according to the statement. The exhibition recognizes that the museum sits on the land of these indigenous peoples.
Notable works of art on the third floor include Roxanne swentzellis huge Mud woman rolls over, an in situ sculpture commissioned by DAM. In the work, a series of larger-than-life seated figures embrace each other, arranged like Russian nesting dolls from the largest to the smallest.
“The mother holds the larger child, who holds the next child, who holds the next and so on,” writes Swentzell in a declaration. “I love the prospect of understanding that we all come from Earth, generation after generation; a family without end of life which transmits the seed.
At Rose Simpson warrior (2012), a standing figure of reddish clay is decorated with strings, marks, photographs of faces and other symbolic “tools” that the artist uses to protect himself. The Scream (2017) by a Cree Canadian artist Kent monkman, meanwhile, takes into account the often violent treatment of the Catholic Church towards Indigenous children, many of whom were forcibly separated from their families and deported to residential schools.
Because the themes of some of these works have the potential to trigger traumatic reactions in viewers, the museum has created a “soothing room” where visitors can rest and reflect, reports Ray Mark Rinaldi for the New York Times. The space for reflection is decorated with excerpts from the poems of the American poet laureate Joy Harjo, member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, notes Daliah Singer for 5280.
In all galleries, viewers can watch short videos featuring contemporary Indigenous artists and read label texts written by the artists themselves.
“We can allow our visitors to connect directly with artists and hear first-hand testimonials from artists about what they are trying to convey in their art,” said curator John Lukavic. 5280.
Thus, adds Lukavic, the redeveloped gallery “includes indigenous voices. It centers Indigenous perspectives on issues of social justice.