Denver Art Museum Announces New Curatorial Promotions

Angelica Daneo to serve as Chief Curator, John Lukavic as Mellon Curator of Native Arts

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) today announced two curatorial appointments, promoting two current staff members to new roles. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, Curator of Painting and Sculpture Angelica Daneo will take on the additional role of Chief Curator at the museum. Additionally, John P. Lukavic, Curator of Native Arts, will move to the endowed position of Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts, heading up the American Indian art, Oceanic art and African art collections at the museum.

“Angelica and John for years have been growing into extraordinary leaders at the Denver Art Museum, and I’m delighted to share these promotions toward greater institutional leadership with our colleagues and the wider community,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM.

“Angelica is masterful at collaborating with colleagues here in Denver and around the world, resulting in incredible visitor experiences. John has deep ties within the American Indian Community and can continue the incredible work undertaken so masterfully by Nancy Blomberg, his mentor and predecessor in the role.”

Angelica Daneo, Chief Curator

Angelica Daneo, Chief Curator

Daneo joined the DAM staff in 2004 as Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture, ascending in 2015 to Curator of the department. Since that time, she has developed compelling exhibitions and thoughtful installations in her field of expertise, especially surrounding Impressionism and Renaissance art.

Serving as the coordinator for Inspiring Impressionism: The Impressionists and the Art of the Past, Daneo coordinated the 2008 presentation that compared the work of the Impressionists alongside Old Master works that served to inspire them. She was the organizing curator of the museum’s 2011 presentation of Cities of Splendor: A Journey Through Renaissance Italy, which gave visitors the experience of the artistic differences of Italy’s various regions, and she also was the lead curator of the museum’s 2016 Glory of Venice: Masterworks of the Renaissance. Visitors raved about Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism (2017), locally curated by Daneo.

Daneo is currently serving as the lead curator for the exhibition Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, which will present the most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of Monet’s paintings in more than two decades. Opening in Denver in October 2019 and featuring more than 100 paintings spanning the artist’s career, the presentation will focus on Monet’s enduring relationship with nature.

“Laudable attributes ascribed to Angelica are many, but foremost perhaps are her keen intelligence, her ability to grasp both details as well as the big picture, her responsiveness and organizational acumen—all accomplished with charming wit and affability,” said Timothy Standring, Gates Family Foundation Curator at the DAM. “We are fortunate to have such a colleague prepared to take on this important role.”

The Chief Curator role at the DAM is a crucial one for the institution, which is home to 12 global art collections and nine curatorial departments. In her new role as Chief Curator, Daneo will oversee all curators and curatorial staff at the museum, ensuring staff is informed about institutional priorities, assisting with coordinating projects and exhibitions and overseeing collecting strategies for each department.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the remarkable team of curators here at DAM,” said Daneo. “Each one of them contributes their vision and expertise with passion and dedication, and I look forward to working with them in bringing diverse and exciting programs and exhibitions to our audiences.”

Daneo has published essays and catalogs for the museum, including 2011’s The Kress Collection at the Denver Art Museum, a comprehensive survey of this major gift to the museum. She also was both editor and author of Glory of Venice: Masterworks of the Renaissance, the exhibition catalog for the museum’s 2016 exhibition.

Prior to her curatorial role in Denver, Daneo worked as a research assistant in the Department of Early European Art at the St. Louis Art Museum and also worked for a time at the Smithsonian Institution. She holds a Magna Cum Laude University Degree in Art History (Dottore in Lettere e Filosofia) at the Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italy, where she defended a thesis on History of Art Criticism.

John P. Lukavic, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts

John P. Lukavic, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts

John P. Lukavic joined the DAM’s Native Arts Department in 2012 as Assistant Curator of Native Arts, rising to Associate Curator in 2013 and full Curator in 2017. Under the tutelage of the late Nancy Blomberg, Lukavic quickly developed broad knowledge of the museum’s world-renowned American Indian art, African art and Oceanic art collections and made important contributions through major acquisitions, exhibitions, community building and scholarship.

One of his first presentations at the museum was co-curating 2013’s highly regarded Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land, exploring the renowned artist’s works featuring Hispanic and Native American architecture, cultural objects and landscapes of New Mexico. In 2015, the DAM opened Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967-1980, an exhibition Lukavic curated about the renowned 20th century artist who blended figurative and pop art influences to create vibrant, compelling and revolutionary images. Including new scholarship on the artist and his work, the show traveled to the Phoenix Art Museum and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.

The following year, Lukavic co-curated Why We Dance: American Indian Art in Motion (2016) with guest curator Russ Tallchief (Osage Nation) and Nancy Blomberg. The multisensory exhibition explored motives behind Native American dance, featuring 86 works that included historic pieces, contemporary dance regalia from the regional Native American community and works that highlighted specific Native dances such as animal dances, healing dances and rites of passage primarily found in tribes of the Plains region and the American Southwest.

Working with contemporary Native artists has been a leading priority for the museum and the Native arts department, and Lukavic has developed strong support among the artist community both locally and nationally.

“John is wonderful to work with,” said artist Kent Monkman (Swampy Cree). “He is responsive, supportive, insightful and respectful of our community. I rely on his opinion, and he is one of my favorite collaborators in the museum world.”

Most recently, Lukavic collaborated with New York-based artist Jeffrey Gibson (Mississippi Choctaw and Cherokee) to organize the debut of Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer, which is currently on view at Mississippi Museum of Art and will travel to Seattle Art Museum and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in 2019. The exhibition chronicles a pivotal moment in the artist’s career when his contemporary practice converged with his Native American heritage. Works featured wall hangings, beaded punching bags, painted works on rawhide and canvas, and video, in many cases highlighting music lyrics that had particular impacts on his life and work.

"Working with John for nearly three years to organize Like a Hammer has been a highlight of my career,” said Gibson. “John remained completely open during the process and worked diligently to make sure that I felt appropriately represented in the beautiful exhibition and catalog. I am really proud of what we were able to accomplish and am thankful that we had the opportunity to work together on such a significant exhibition."

“I am thrilled to learn of John’s new appointment,” said Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo Nation), recently announced as the Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum. “He has been a tireless advocate for Native art for many years, and has really moved the needle with his exhibitions and acquisitions from some of the most influential Native artists working today.”

Lukavic also has collaborated with artist and activist Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute) on numerous occasions, including a Native Arts Artist-in-Residence program in 2015 to 2016 at the DAM that is aimed at showcasing and celebrating the work of contemporary Native artists. This was followed by a second collaborative residency with former Native Arts Artists-in-Residence Melanie Yazzie and Walt Pourier in 2017 titled Action X Community X Togetherness.

“I cannot express in adequate words how pleased I am that John Lukavic is at the helm of Native arts department at the Denver Art Museum,” said Deal. “The museum is an incredible ally to contemporary Indigenous artists, and John is the best candidate to uphold and sustain the vision the museum has been carrying out.”

“The Native arts department at DAM has been a leader in the field of American Indian art since 1925, and I look forward to continuing and expanding my contributions into the future,” Lukavic said. “The programs and exhibitions planned over the next several years will highlight the wonderful depth of our collection and feature the work of cutting-edge Indigenous artists working today. Relationships with Native people and communities are central to what we do here at the museum and we take seriously our commitment to honoring and respecting those relationships. Personally, I look forward to the opportunity to expand our Native arts staff as we now begin the search to hire an assistant or associate curator as well as activating and expanding our African and Oceanic art collections.”

Lukavic holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma, and earned his B.A. in Anthropology from the university as well. He earned a master’s in museum science from Texas Tech University. In 2018, he was selected for the Getty Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University’s NextGen program for emerging top talent in the museum field.

He has multiple scholarly publications to his credit, including 2015’s Practicing Anthropology, “Where We Belong: Anthropology in an Art Museum and New Directions for the Future,” and “Re-Figuring Scholder: His Indian Series, 1967-1980” from Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967-1980. For his doctoral dissertation, Southern Cheyenne Orthodoxy: a study in materiality, Lukavic worked closely with Cheyenne moccasin makers and religious leaders on a community-directed project. In the local community, Lukavic serves on the Board of Directors of Denver Indian Center, Inc.

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