Before the turkeys were basted and the wreaths were rolled out, another big bird landed in Denver. It's been more than a month since the welcoming hype and hoopla of the week the earth stood Still. Now the renowned abstract expressionist painter's inaugural exhibition hangs, waiting to receive guests with the promise of inspiration.
The building is perfectly tucked into the landscape, on the west side of the Denver Art Museum's titanium Hamilton building. If Daniel Leibiskind's angular structure is the spaceship, the Still Museum, designed by architect Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture, is the earth from which it soars. The textured concrete block, with its warm interior finishes and glorious light, is the perfect home for the work. Ground floor gives context for Still's life and times, with personal effects, an interactive timeline of the twentieth century, conservation studio and a peek into the archives that house the massive collection.
When Clyfford Still signed his Last Will and Testament in 1978, he bequeathed most of his collected body of work to an American city willing to build and maintain quarters for its survival, study and exclusive exhibition. After a process involving Mayors Webb and Hickenlooper, the Still family and Denver's arts and civic leaders, Denver was selected from a list of twenty candidate cities and the dream became a reality.
The opening events leading up to this significant cultural destination, were nothing less than stellar -- press previews and private tours, speeches by curator Dean Sobel, Cloepfil, the Governor, and the parties. The First Light Gala was a black tie affair, filling the space with Denver's culturati -- a convivial group of donors, patrons and civic leaders. The air was calm and elegant as old friends mixed like complementary colors in a spirit of dignified accomplishment, the Still Museum being one of a handful of single-artist museums in the country.
Friday night Denver was ready to party. The coveted ticket brought in the public for a "Passport" event guiding guests on a path of discovery through the artwork. The atmosphere was bright, the conversation lively, as each gallery visit garnered a stamp that led to a Still phrase "Behind all my work lays the figure." No one seemed in a rush to leave the lush paintings in lieu of the bar, but as the strains of Devotchka began wafting through the halls from the party tent all that changed. Satiated with art, the young and diverse crowd enjoyed food, drink and dancing into the wee hours of the autumn night.
So why return? Because the work is magnificent, the building a sanctuary, and each visit brings a new insight along Clyfford Still's expansive artistic journey. Top on my list of places to take my out-of-town holiday visitors, we'll include a stroll through the lights at the City & County Building and a swing by Mad Wine for some yummy wine and cheese, this promises to be a delightful way to spend an afternoon-into-evening and the perfect retreat from the rush of the season. Denver's newest jewel requests your presence. Prepare to be awed.
Follow Tracy Shaffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tracetime