Mission & History

The Denver Art Museum is an educational, nonprofit resource that sparks creative thinking and expression through transformative experiences with art. Its holdings reflect the city and region—and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about cultures from around the world.

The mission of the Denver Art Museum is to enrich the lives of present and future generations through the acquisition, presentation, and preservation of works of art, supported by exemplary scholarship and public programs related to both its permanent collections and to temporary exhibitions presented by the museum.

The Denver Art Museum is one of the largest art museums between Chicago and the West Coast, with a collection of more than 70,000 works of art divided between 10 permanent collections including African, American Indian, Asian, European and American, modern and contemporary, pre-Columbian, photography, Spanish Colonial, textile, and western American art. Our holdings reflect our city and region—and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about cultures from around the world.

Founded in 1893 as the Denver Artists' Club, the Denver Art Museum has had a number of temporary homes, from the public library and a downtown mansion to a portion of the Denver City and County Building. In 1949 the museum opened its own galleries on 14th Avenue Parkway, and a center for children's art activities was added in the early 1950s.

In 1971 the museum opened the 24-sided, two-towered North Building by Ponti in collaboration with James Sudler Associates of Denver. Over one million faceted, shimmering gray tiles, developed by Dow Corning, provide cladding for the radical seven-story structure. This architectural icon remains the only completed project in the United States by this important Italian master of modern design.

This bold tradition continued with the selection in 2000 of the architect Daniel Libeskind. The 146,000-square-foot Frederic C. Hamilton Building, a joint venture of Daniel Libeskind and Denver-based Davis Partnership Architects, is situated directly south of the North Building. Libeskind's design, referential to the original Ponti building, recalls not only the mountain peaks that provide a powerful backdrop for the city, but the intricate and geometric rock crystals found in the foothills of the Rockies. A sharply cantilevered section of the Hamilton Building juts across the street towards the North Building above an enclosed steel-and-glass bridge that links the two structures.

On October 7, 2006, the Denver Art Museum nearly doubled in size when we opened one of the country's most unique structures. The Frederic C. Hamilton Building includes new galleries for its permanent collection, three temporary exhibition spaces, art storage, and public amenities. The entire museum complex totals more than 350,000 square feet and serves as an architectural landmark for the city of Denver and the surrounding region.

The Denver Art Museum has been a leader in educational programming for more than two decades. The family-friendly approach is fully integrated into the galleries through a unique partnership between curators, designers, and educators for each discipline. This collaboration is present in both the North and Hamilton buildings. A trailblazer in creating innovative opportunities that encourage visitors to interact with the collection, the museum is also known internationally for the way we help our visitors explore art and their own creativity.

North Building

North Building

In 1971, the museum opened what is now known as the North Building, designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates. The seven-story structure, 210,000-square-foot building allowed the museum to display its collections under one roof for the first time. This architectural icon remains the only completed project in the United States by this important Italian master of modern design.

The North Building was an innovative move away from traditional, temple-style museum architecture. More than a million reflective glass tiles on the building's exterior complement the dramatic windows and pierced roofline of the building's castle-like facade. "Art is a treasure, and these thin but jealous walls defend it," said Gio Ponti.

Listen to more information (7:06, mp3) about the DAM's first revolutionary piece of architecture.

Frederic C. Hamilton Building

Frederic C. Hamilton Building

Continuing a legacy of bold architecture, the DAM commissioned architect Daniel Libeskind to design an expansion that would accommodate our growing collections and programs. The 146,000-square-foot Hamilton Building opened to the public October 7, 2006.

The Hamilton Building's design recalls the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and geometric rock crystals found in the foothills near Denver. "I was inspired by the light and the geology of the Rockies, but most of all by the wide-open faces of the people of Denver," says Libeskind. The building is covered in 9,000 titanium panels that reflect the Colorado sunshine.

Listen to architect Daniel Libeskind answer questions about his design for the Hamilton Building (6:19, mp3).

Bannock Administration Building

Bannock Administration Building

The 50,000-square-foot structure is located immediately west of the museum's Hamilton Building and directly south of the Clyfford Still Museum. The building opened in April 2014, bringing more than 100 museum employees to the museum campus, including administrative staff, curators, and educators that formerly were in office space five blocks away at 14th Street and Tremont. The privately funded project also contains the Frederick R. Mayer Library and 9,000 square feet of collection storage.

Denver-based Roth Sheppard Architects and Saunders Construction, Inc. were selected to design and construct the building, which features glass and light-colored stone on the exterior to complement neighboring structures, and an open floor plan with various brainstorming zones that provide optimal working and meeting spaces to inspire creativity.

The DAM is a member of:

  • American Alliance of Museums
  • Association of Art Museum Directors
  • Association of North Front Range Museums 
  • Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums
  • Contemporary Art Colorado
  • French Regional and American Museums Exchange
  • Mountain-Plains Museum Association
  • Smithsonian Affiliate