Modern & Contemporary Art

Andy Warhol

American, 1928-1987, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The American Indian (Russell Means)


Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on canvas

Charles Francis Hendrie Memorial Collection by exchange, © the Artist, 1993.107

© 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“I didn’t volunteer to have my portrait done; certainly not. Andy Warhol had asked me. And I accepted, since his gallery, Ace, had donated $5,000 to the American Indian Movement—and that was it. When the money went to the cause, I gave my consent.”— Russell Means

Unlike most of the portraits that Andy Warhol made after 1970, The American Indian (Russell Means) is less about immortalizing a celebrity or endowing a well-paying client; the painting belongs to Warhol’s theme of “big American topics.” In fact, it’s quite unlikely that Warhol himself chose Means as a portrait subject. Given his famous question to friends and dealers—“Gee, what should I paint?”—and his tendency to readily follow their suggestions, it’s more probable that someone at Ace Gallery, Warhol’s West Coast representation in Venice, California, conceived the idea. Means theorized that someone at Ace conducted a brief survey among American Indians in California and Canada asking who they thought should represent their culture today, and Means was their choice. Means was a logical selection, as he was the most prominent member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), which was formed to promote the freedom of Native Americans to follow their traditional ways and to call national attention to their oppressed state.

Matthew Brannon

American, born 1971 in St. Maries, Idaho; lives and works in New York City

Last to Know


Ink on paper

Museum purchase with funds from Baryn, Daniel, and Jonathan Futa, © the Artist, 2010.391

Film advertising and popular culture were early formative influences for Matthew Brannon, who was born in Saint Maries, Idaho, and raised in the Northwest away from the cultural offerings of a large metropolitan center. His undergraduate years at UCLA and then at Columbia University, where he received an MFA, broadened his personal philosophy of art. Brannon’s acknowledgement of the artistic influences of Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Woody Allen underscores his expansive approach to art-making.

Brannon’s large-scale works include a number of vinyl wall murals. Last to Know, from the Denver Art Museum's exhibition Embrace! features the seemingly straightforward, yet disconcerting, motif of plunging kitchen knives, cleavers and a single pair of tweezers on the sloping wall of the Newman Overlook in the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. An undercurrent of vulnerability and violence belies the decorative appeal and seeming simplicity of the arrangement. Brannon describes himself as “a fully committed believer in Freud,” and his themes spotlight the insecurities and misplaced desires that thwart us all. His blatant imitation of advertising models also playfully blurs the lines between art, graphic design, and promotional advertising.

Bruce Nauman

American, born 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana; lives and works near Galisteo, New Mexico

Double Poke in the Eye II


Neon mounted on aluminum

Gift of Polly and Mark Addison, © the Artist, 2007.22

© 2012 Bruce Nauman/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

Reproduction, including downloading, of Nauman work is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Like much of Bruce Nauman’s work, Double Poke in the Eye II may be thought of as a kind of performance piece, without a beginning or an end. Both humorous and savage, its eye-catching play of light compels you to witness an unstoppable fight. Nauman is often compared to Samuel Beckett for evoking the painful drama of existence.

Edward Ruscha

American, born 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska; lives and works in Los Angeles

It Is Said


Oil paint on canvas

Funds from Collector's Choice VI, Alliance for Contemporary Art, American Art Foundation, © the Artist, 1985.13

Edward Ruscha has always been fascinated with words, those paradoxical combinations of abstract symbols and definite meanings which we use to describe the world around and within us. The painting It is Said has these words emblazoned against a mountainous landscape, but it leaves no clues as to what is said, by whom and why? Ruscha does not expect the viewer to interpret his work in any particular way: “I know that viewers of my work looking at an English word are going to try to translate it into a meaning. But often I’d like them to lose the meaning and just look at the word as an abstract jumble. Yet I’m not giving the viewer any guidance as to how to respond. I think the artist should stand by in silence.”

Eric Fischl

American, born 1948 in New York City; lives and works in New York City

Pretty Ladies


Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Susan and Larry Marx in memory of Harley Baldwin, © the Artist, 2011.350

Composed of three canvases that are slightly off kilter from one another, Pretty Ladies suggests a cinematic scene, but one that gives the audience a snippet of a narrative. Fischl’s layered brushstrokes create an open-ended scene made up of a nude black woman watching TV on a portable TV/radio. She lies in repose as bright, mid-day light streams in from the window. A figurine sits on the mantle of an unused fireplace. The object most likely represents a pre-Columbian figurine from central Mexico. These figurines are commonly referred to as “pretty ladies” and were probably fertility symbols. While Fischl gives viewers glimpses of a possible narrative and mood, the scene remains incomplete. This ambiguity may be what makes Fischl’s work so powerful, eliciting investigation, but often leaving questions unanswered.

Georges Braque

French, 1881-1963, born in Paris, France

Still Life with Grapes


Oil paint on canvas

Charles Francis Hendrie Memorial Collection, 1966.181

Cubism, a technique that outraged art connoisseurs in the early twentieth century, is a way to portray three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface. By deconstructing them into an arrangement of overlapping planes that represent multiple points of view, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso upset the illusionist conventions of earlier art. In this still life, Braque created a composition of overlapping planes to create a symphony of color and texture, while leaving clues to the original subject; grapes and a partial newspaper heading Le Journal are clearly visible. Thanks to his early training as a painter-decorator, Braque was a master of textures. The grain of the brownish wood-like panel at the right is simulated by a comb he ran over the surface of the wet paint.

Juan Gris

Spanish, 1887-1927, born in Madrid, Spain

Nature morte á la bouteille de Bordeaux (Still life with a bottle of Bordeaux)


Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Marion G. Hendrie, 1966.176

Juan Gris was an early convert to Cubism, and often went to the studio Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque shared from 1908 until 1912. From 1916-1919, after extensive work in papiers collés (cut paper collage), Gris undertook a systematic analysis of the Cubist style. He reduced the number of objects represented and used fewer simultaneous views, resulting in flat but legible forms. Gris described the works from this period as “flat colored architecture.”

Herbert Bayer

American, 1900-1985, born in Haag, Austria

colorado mural


Oil paint on unstretched canvas

Gift of Joella Bayer, 1986.1917

Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer championed a new direction in modern American art and design. He lived in Colorado for 28 years—some of the most productive and influential years of his career. When he left Colorado for California, he gave the Denver Art Museum the beginning of what would become the largest public collection of his work anywhere. The collection demonstrates the breadth of his work in all media and his lifetime commitment to the Bauhaus ideal of total design. In the 1940s, Bayer became fascinated by the inner structure of mountains, particularly the movements within the earth’s crust. This painting depicts an abstract vision of both the inside and outside of a mountain, including its snow-covered peak.

Joan Mitchell

American, 1925-1992, born in Chicago, Illinois



Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Dr. Charles and Linda Hamlin on the occasion of Dianne Vanderlip's 25th year with the Contemporary Collection, 2001.653

Joan Mitchell is generally described as a second generation abstract expressionist, although her work has the powerful energy of many of the first generation, such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline. But unlike the abstract expressionists, Mitchell drew inspiration from landscapes and nature. As a result, her paintings, though very abstract, sometimes take on the expansiveness of a landscape. However, her intent was not to create recognizable scenes but to convey the emotion of place. Dune, painted at Mitchell’s home outside of Paris, is exemplary of her intense brushwork of thick, textured patches of color, and subdued fields of white that, together, suggests a fall or winter landscape.

John DeAndrea

American, born 1941 in Denver, Colorado; lives and works in Denver



Oil paint and hair on polyvinyl

Funds from 1983 Collectors Choice, Dr. Charles and Linda Hamlin, Sheila Bisenius, Phyllis and Aron B. Katz, Jan and Frederick Mayer, Caroline and Rex L. Morgan, Gulf Oil Foundation, Marsha and Marvin Naiman, Joel S. Rosenblum Fund, and anonymous donors, © the Artist,1984.1

True to his Italian heritage, John DeAndrea believes that the ideal of human beauty is represented by Greek and Roman sculptures. Unlike his ancestors, however, DeAndrea chooses his models from life, then in an elaborate casting procedure makes his sculptures directly from their bodies, paints them in flesh tones, and adds details including human hair, eyelashes, and glass eyes, as paragons of contemporary beauty. Linda, one of our most popular works, is only on view for a short time each year because she is made of polyvinyl, a kind of plastic that breaks down chemically over time when subjected to light. Recently, DeAndrea started casting his figures in bronze before he paints them, so that they can be exhibited year-round. Happily, he has re-cast in bronze and then painted a very early piece, Artist and Model, which is expected to be on view in the future.

Jonas Burgert

German, born 1969 in Berlin, Germany; lives and works in Berlin

Tempel (Temple)


Oil paint on canvas

Departmental Deaccessioning Funds, © the Artist, 2008.414

Jonas Burgert's spaces are theatre stages. He is not looking through a window onto the real world; instead he creates a world of his own into which he stages figures. These figures are never meant to suggest individual human beings, but allegories for the human existence. In paintings like Temple, Burgert creates a conundrum that deals with human characteristics and qualities. The attitude of single-heartedness and the virtue of "standing tall" might remain with the main figure that, untouched by the apocalyptic surroundings, stands up for its dignity and invulnerability. Another figure, crowned with an unfamiliar headdress, is searching the ground, unaware of its environment. The atmosphere in Burgert’s paintings is often taken from a world of destruction and decay. Herein lies a visual equivalent to the many visions of the end of the world that are popular today in music, film, and literature. The leading character in Burgert’s Temple might carry the fire as does Cormac McCarthy’s boy in his 2006 novel, The Road.

Lawrence Weiner

American, born 1942 in Bronx, New York; lives and works in Amsterdam and New York



Powder-coated aluminum

Gift of Vicki and Kent Logan in honor of Lewis I. Sharp, Denver Art Museum Director, 1989-2009, © the Artist, 2010.383

As a celebrated founding member of the conceptual art movement of the 1970s, Lawrence Weiner has inspired several generations of artists to explore the parameters of the traditional art object. Weiner employs the immediacy and universality of language to break down the barriers of art-historical precedents by inviting the viewer to interpret the work from his or her own personally relevant contemporary reality – without the influences of historical reference. First seen in the exhibition Embrace!, AS TO BE IN PLAIN SIGHT was installed on a dizzying wall on level four of the Hamilton Building. Today, it can be viewed as an outdoor work on the south wall of the North Building.

Marcel Duchamp

French, 1887-1968, born in Blainville, France

Bôite, Series D (green version)


Mixed media

Funds from Colorado Contemporary Collectors, George Berkey and Suzanne Farver, Jan and Frederick Mayer, Beverly and Bernard Rosen, Kuyper Foundation, anonymous donor, the Hendrie Endowment Fund, and the Francis Hendrie Memorial Collection, by exchange, 1992.431

Bôite, Series D (green version) displays 68 miniatures of the artist’s work. This single work is an index of Duchamp’s entire career, containing reproductions of his pieces from his earliest paintings through the revolutionary Ready-mades. Between 1936 and 1941, Duchamp prepared 324 miniature copies of each of his works to be included in the Boîte-en-valise series, smuggling the material through Nazi-occupied France using a pass that identified him as a cheese merchant. He brought the contents of his mini museum to the United States and the boxes were gradually assembled over the years with the assistance of friends and his wife, Teeny.

These modest objects belie the revolutionary nature of the artist himself, who dared to answer his own question of “what is art?” with “Art is what I say it is.” Duchamp believed it was the idea behind the final object that represented the art, not simply the objects themselves. This concept has influenced artists and art-making ever since.

Nam June Paik

Korean, 1932-2006, born in Seoul, South Korea

Lady Secretary, Bilingual, Will Travel...


Cathode ray tubes, payphone, typewriter keys, and laser discs transferred to DVD

Gift of Polly and Mark Addison, © the Estate of Nam June Paik, 2008.324

The television screen is often a component of Nam June Paik’s work, as is his wry sense of humor. Both are present in Lady Secretary, Bilingual, Will Travel..., which depicts a futuristic humanoid composed of nine television screens and a pay phone. Paik was a pioneer in establishing video as a form of art. Since the early 1960s, his revolutionary work paved the way for several generations of artists to further explore the medium.

Philip Guston

American, 1913-80, born in Montreal, Canada

Blue Water


Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Nancy M. and Donald F. Todd in honor of Dianne Perry Vanderlip, © the Artist, 2002.220

In 1968, Guston drastically changed his artistic style from a lyrical form of abstract expressionism to a kind of cartoony figuration. After the upheavals of the 1960s, Guston renounced what he felt to be the limitations of total abstraction, abandoning “purity” for “narrative.” While many at first ridiculed him, it did not take long for the art world to come around to his profound—and autobiographical—late work.

Pablo Picasso

Spanish, 1881-1973, born in Málaga, Spain

Paysage, Horta de Ebro


Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Charles Francis Hendrie Memorial, 1966.175

Pablo Picasso, one of the most famous artists of the 1900s, is best-known for co-founding cubism with Georges Braque. This still life incorporates the cubist aim of representing the world from multiple viewpoints. While the image initially appears to be an abstract mixture of colors and shapes, one can come to understand the image—and other Cubist works—by breaking it down and analyzing its parts.

Richard Phillips

American, born 1962 in Marblehead, Massachusetts; lives and works in New York City



Oil paint on linen

Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan, fractional and promised gift to the Denver Art Museum, Courtesy of Richard Phillips, Gagosian Gallery© the Artist, 2001.816

Richard Phillips draws inspiration for his large photo-realist paintings from photographs of celebrities, which he “humanizes” by recreating the glossy shots in paint on canvas, albeit in hyper-realist, supersized images. Here, he chooses a lascivious gesture photographed from below the model’s face to focus our attention on the difference a change of angle can make to an otherwise polished, glamorized face-shot.

Robert Motherwell

American, 1915-91, born in Aberdeen, Washington

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 172 (With Blood)


Acrylic paint on canvas

Acquired in memory of Lewis W. Story through the generosity of the Dedalus Foundation and the following donors: Florence R. & Ralph L. Burgess Trust, Laurencin Deaccessions Fund, Vance Kirkland Acquisitions Fund, and the Marion G. Hendrie Fund.

Major memorial gifts from Joan E. Anderman, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh R. Catherwood, Mr. and Mrs. John B. Chafee, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas E. Congdon, Mr. and Mrs. Cortlandt S. Dietler, Suzanne Farver, Katherine L. Lawrence, Jan and Frederick Mayer, Caroline Morgan, Linda Ringsby, Mr. and Mrs. Walter S. Rosenberry III, Sally H. Story, and three anonymous donors.

Additional funding from Mark and Polly Addison, Philip and Nancy Anschutz, Nancy Lake-Benson, H. Kirk Brown III, Robin and Steven Chotin, Colorado National Bank, John and Lisa Dorn, William L. and Dr. Margaret B. Dorn, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis W. Douglas Jr., Duncan Oil Inc., First Interstate Bank of Denver, Charles and Diane Gallagher, Dorothy Strear Goodstein, Diane and Bob Greenlee, Fred and Jane Hamilton, Dr. Charles and Linda Hamlin, Mark and Diana Hayden, Hinckley & Schmitt Inc., J. Charles Jordy Jr., Key Bank of Colorado, Elizabeth T. Kirkpatrick, Amie Knox and Jim Kelley, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Kurtz, Edward and Margaret Leede, Susan and John W. Madden III, Jan and Frederick Mayer, McClain-Finlon Advertising Inc., Lilly and Paul Merage, Larry and Carol Mizel, Andrea Pollack, Priscilla Press and Joel Ehrlich, Judy and Ken Robins, Barbara and George Schmitt, Tremont Corporation, Vail Valley Arts Council, Ginny Williams, and Robbi and Carl Williams, Robert Motherwell is © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, 1994.1134

Over Robert Motherwell’s forty-year career as an artist, he produced hundreds of works. The year before he died, Motherwell completed this last monumental Elegy. Motherwell believed: “Making an Elegy is like building a temple, an altar, a ritual place. Unlike the rest of my work, the Elegies are, for the most part, public statements. They reflect the internationalist in me, interested in the historical forces of the 20th century, with strong feelings about the conflicting forces in it.” Despite this statement, Motherwell insisted that the Elegy was not about the Spanish Civil War, but rather a universal lament on people struggling everywhere to gain freedom and independence.

Piet Mondrian. Dutch, 1872-1944, born in Amersfoort, Netherlands. Bleu, Blanc et Jaune (Blue, White and Yellow). 1932. Oil paint on canvas. Gift of Charles Francis Hendrie Memorial ©2013 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International 1966.185.

Piet Mondrian’s goal was to create visual harmonies by stripping painting down to its essentials: black lines surrounding rectangles of primary colors on a white ground. The series of paintings produced in Paris between 1929 and 1932, including this one, best expresses this goal. Mondrian believed that the opposition of vertical and horizontal lines creates a purified symbol of nature; where verticals signify masculinity and activity and horizontals signify femininity and serenity.

Bonfils-Stanton Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery, Levels 3 & 4, Hamilton Building

Renowned for its impressive collection of modern masterworks and outstanding contemporary objects, the modern and contemporary collection represents more than a century of artistic innovation. Encompassing over 12,500 works made since 1900, the museum’s collection includes works by such artistic luminaries as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as 33 paintings, drawings, and collages by the acclaimed abstract-expressionist Robert Motherwell. The collection also holds representative works from the major post-war art movements, including abstract expressionism, minimalism, pop art, conceptual art, and contemporary realism.

It is also home to the Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive, a repository that counts over 8,000 objects in its collection.

Related Collections

Collection of Polly and Mark Addison

Among the early supporters of the newly formed department were Polly and Mark Addison, who joined other enthusiasts to found the Alliance for Contemporary Art (now named DAM Contemporaries) in 1978, a group whose fundraising activities have helped the department underwrite many important purchases and programs. In the early 2000s, the Denver Art Museum’s acquisition efforts were enhanced when the Addisons initiated an active gift-giving program. Colorado residents and long-time museum supporters, the Addisons are passionate, intelligent collectors of contemporary art in all media who generously share their finds—from time-based work and sculpture to installation art and photography—with the museum. Audience favorites such as Jim Green’s Singing Sinks (located on level one of the North Building) and Charles Sandison’s Chamber (conceived of and installed for the exhibitions Embrace! and Blink! Light, Sound and the Moving Image) are among the many important works the Addisons’ support has brought to the museum.

Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan

Learn more on the Logan Collection page.

Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive

The Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive contains over 8,000 works of art and design, along with extensive documentary material. This internationally important repository is dedicated to the legacy of the Austrian-born Bauhaus master who lived in Colorado for 28 years. The core of this collection and archive came through the artist’s bequest, and scholars visit from around the world to engage in research here. Selected works are displayed on the lower level of the Hamilton Building.

Born in 1900 in Austria, Herbert Bayer immigrated to the United States in 1938. He moved from New York to Aspen in 1946 at the behest of Walter Paepcke, chairman of the Container Corporation of America. Bayer’s influence is still evident today, especially at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.

Unless otherwise noted, all publications were published by the Denver Art Museum. Many of the titles are available to purchase in the Shop.

  • Women of Abstract Expressionism. Edited by Joan Marter; Gwen Chanzit, curator. Denver Art Museum in association with Yale University Press, 2016.
  • Nick Cave: Sojourn. Kyle MacMillan and William Morrow. Denver Art Museum, 2013.
  • Collecting Ideas: Modern & Contemporary Works from the Polly and Mark Addison Collection. Nancy B. Tieken. Denver Art Museum, 2013.
  • Companion to Focus: Robert Motherwell from the Collection. Nancy B. Tieken. Denver Art Museum, 2011.
  • Companion to Focus: The Figure, Art from the Logan Collection. Nancy B. Tieken. Denver Art Museum, 2011.
  • Overthrown: Clay Without Limits. Volumes I and II. Gwen Chanzit. Denver Art Museum, 2011.
  • Companion to Blink! Light, Sound and the Moving Image. Jill Desmond. Denver Art Museum, 2011.
  • Embrace! Volumes I and II. Christoph Heinrich, Denver Art Museum, 20092010.
  • RADAR: Selections from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan. Dianne Perry Vanderlip, Gwen Chanzit, et al. Denver Art Museum, 2007.
  • From Bauhaus to Aspen: Herbert Bayer and Modernist Design in America. Gwen F. Chanzit. Boulder: Johnson Books, 2005.
  • The View from Denver: Contemporary American Art from the Denver Art Museum. Dianne Perry Vanderlip et al. Denver Art Museum/Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, 1997.
  • Visions of America: Landscape as Metaphor in the Late Twentieth Century. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with the Denver Art Museum and the Columbus Museum of Art, 1994.

While the modern and contemporary department was not officially established until 1978, it has its roots in the 1950s, when the visionary Lewis Wingfield Story served as assistant director of the museum. Story’s commitment to contemporary art was profound, and for three decades he was almost solely responsible for keeping the spirit of contemporary art alive at the DAM. Story also successfully advocated that the modern and contemporary collection encompass photography, a field that was not particularly popular or even accepted as a serious art form by most American museums in the early 1970s.

In 1976, under the leadership of Story and the newly appointed Director Thomas N. Maytham, the Board of Trustees made the critical decision to begin acquiring contemporary American art. Among the museum’s first major acquisitions was Frank Stella’s Warka I (1973). Two years later, Maytham appointed Dianne Vanderlip the museum’s first curator of modern and contemporary art and charged her with defining the newly minted department’s direction and collecting efforts. For more than 25 years, Vanderlip built not only the collection, but also lasting relationships with artists, gallery owners, and influential collectors.

Modern and contemporary curator Gwen Chanzit arrived in 1980, first to work on the Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive, and then in a broader curatorial role that she maintains today. Christoph Heinrich—now the Denver Art Museum’s director— joined the department as a curator in 2007 and contributed mightily to the collection that has grown to more than 12,500 works in a variety of media.

Early donors Lucile and Donald Graham, T. Edward and Tullah Hanley, Marion G. Hendrie, the Charles Francis Hendrie Memorial Collection, Vance and Anne Kirkland, and Kimiko and John Powers contributed to the museum’s rich modern collection. More recently, donors such as Jana and Fred Bartlit, Merle Chambers and Hugh Grant, and the Eleanor and Henry Hitchcock Foundation have made major contributions to the expanding collection of contemporary art.

Current Staff

  • Rebecca R. Hart, The Polly and Mark Addison Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art
  • Gwen F. Chanzit, Ph.D., Curator of Modern Art and the Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive
  • Danielle St. Peter, Interpretive Specialist
  • Renée Miller, Curatorial Assistant
  • Julie Augur, Adjunct Curator, Drawings
  • Hugh Grant, Adjunct Curator, Kirkland Collection

Past Staff

  • William Morrow, Polly and Mark Addison Associate Curator of Contemporary Art 2012–2014
  • Jessica Brunecky, DAM Contemporaries 2010–2014
  • Christoph Heinrich, The Polly and Mark Addison Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art 2007–2009
  • Dianne Vanderlip, The Polly and Mark Addison Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art 1978–2007