Tucked away on level seven of the North Building is a workshop equipped with drills, metal rods, a sander, anvils, and more. This is where Steve Osborne, Denver Art Museum mount maker, spends his days innovating new ways to optimally display art. Steve is a down-to-earth guy with an extraordinary craft.
Steve is the man behind the 255 mounts that exquisitely display the precious Cartier objects, jewels, and timepieces currently on view in Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century. In case you weren’t sure, a mount is an object that is made to safely display art.
When given the task, Steve knew building these mounts wouldn’t be an easy feat because of their delicacy and the fact that they were overseas. He would only be able to see some of the objects in Europe once and the objects from private lenders he wouldn’t see in person until they arrived a week or two before the show opened.
You are probably asking yourself, how did he do it, then? He literally worked from color Xerox copies. In conversation with him he optimistically noted that Xerox copies are a one-to-one ratio of the true object itself. He created 3-D paper replicas of the objects and pressed on, creating a custom bronze wire mount and sometimes multiple mounts for each piece. Flexibility, versatility, and invisibility were his priorities. Steve also worked with the Cartier Collection team to determine an exact color match that he could paint each mount to ensure it would disappear in the case.
“You know you’ve done a good job if you can’t see your work,” Steve said. His humble opinion about his work really blew me away.
Steve has been an integral part of the DAM team since 1993 and continues to invent new ways to display art. One of Steve’s greatest accomplishments (and his favorite project) was his work on the 2011 American Indian gallery renovation. If you try really hard, maybe you’ll see Steve’s creations in Brilliant and throughout the DAM galleries, but he hopes not!
Learn more about mount-making in this video about Steve.