Largest-ever donation to Denver Art Museum Launches North Project

J. Landis and Sharon Martin present museum with $25 million lead gift to transform iconic, Gio Ponti landmark

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) today announced the largest standalone financial gift in the museum’s history. Board Chairman J. Landis Martin and his wife, Sharon Martin, pledged $25 million to the DAM as the lead gift and catalyst to launch the revitalization of the museum’s iconic North Building by its 50th anniversary in 2021. At the annual Collectors’ Choice fundraiser, held on December 8, 2016, the museum honored the Martins for their generous lead gift to support the North Building renovation, as well as their decades of philanthropy and leadership. In recognition of the Martins’ $25 million gift, the North Building will be renamed the J. Landis and Sharon Martin Building upon project completion.

The Denver Art Museum’s iconic 1971 North Building, designed by Gio Ponti and James Sudler Architects of Denver.

“The revitalization of the North Building—soon to be the Martin Building—will unify the Denver Art Museum campus, celebrate Gio Ponti’s iconic design and ensure the building’s relevance and stewardship for the next 50 years of its life,” said Christoph Heinrich, the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the museum. "Tonight we celebrate Lanny and Sharon Martin for their decades of service and guidance to the Denver Art Museum. The Martins’ longstanding commitment to our campus, major programs, special exhibitions and collection acquisitions has elevated the museum into a national and international destination. Their lead gift in renovating the North Building, a Civic Center anchor and modernist gem, will launch a new era for the museum and ensure the highest quality programs and service to our more than 700,000 annual visitors.”

The North Building was designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates, which opened to the public in 1971. Its seven-story silhouette is celebrated as one of the first-ever high-rise art museums, and is the only completed building in North America designed by the renowned Italian modernist.

Architect’s initial rendering of the North Building view from 14th Ave. Courtesy of Fentress Architects and Machado Silvetti.

“The North Building is considered one of the most significant objects in the Museum’s collection, and our family is honored to support the much-needed rehabilitation required to bring it into the 21st century,” said Lanny Martin. “The Denver Art Museum is a beacon of creativity, representing the incredible depth of the cultural community in our region and it is critical that we continue to invest in it for the benefit of the entire community.”

The North Building Project, estimated at $150 million, will for the first time unify the museum’s campus and upgrade the North Building in alignment with the Hamilton Building’s 21st-century systems and art experiences, including expanded resources for youth and school groups, additional gallery space and improved visitor circulation.

Key project elements include bringing the museum’s renowned educational programs to the center of the campus, expanding gallery spaces for growing collections, including Design and Western American art, completing Ponti’s original vision for visitor access to stunning 7th-floor views, exterior site improvements, a new welcome center and updating environmental and other key systems to current-generation technology. The project is in the initial design phase, and the goal is to begin construction by the end of 2017 completing the project by 2021. More details on the design will be released in 2017.

Board Chairman and lead North Building project donor J. Landis Martin and mountain views from the 7th floor of the Denver Art Museum's North Building. Courtesy of Tryba Architects.

In 2013, the museum began structural assessment and feasibility studies to better understand the institutional needs and opportunities for the North Building. Those details were used to inform a 2015 master-planning process, led by Tryba Architects, to imagine possibilities for the structure. Early this year, the formal design process began with architectural partners Fentress Architects of Denver and Boston-based Machado Silvetti Architects. The goals of the project include stewardship of the building, connecting the campus and the neighborhood, and celebrating learning and engagement as the heart of the museum’s goal of delivering awe-inspiring art experiences to the community.

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Denver Art Museum

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. Denver metro citizens support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a unique funding source serving hundreds of metro Denver arts, culture and scientific organizations. For museum information, call 720-865-5000 or visit