In 2015, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) continued to strategically enhance the breadth and depth of its collection through a variety of major acquisitions, both purchases and gifts from donors including a longtime supporter of the New World Department and a former staffmember. The ongoing refinement and expansion of the museum’s collection exemplifies the DAM’s enduring commitment to maintain a diverse collection that reflects the community and provides invaluable ways for audiences to learn about cultures from around the world. Selected acquisition highlights from 2015 include:
New World Department
The New World Department received several gifts from the collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, further enhancing an already notable collection of Spanish Colonial art. Included in this gift is The Annunciation, a painting by Luis Lagarto, the most famous book illuminator who worked in colonial Mexico. He introduced the European tradition of book illumination to the New World where he worked in both Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico. This example—signed on the base of the column at the lower right and dated 1611 on the base of the column in the lower left—is one of Lagarto’s earliest dated paintings and one of his most celebrated pieces. The painting epitomizes Lagarto’s exquisite style, delicate execution and his palette of rich pastels with jewel tones for accents and goldleaf details.
Other works included in this gift were a casta painting, From Spaniard and Black, Mulatto (De español y negra, mulato), ca. 1760, by José de Alcíbar, attributed; Juan Rodriguez Juarez’s St. Rose of Lima with Christ Child and Donor, 1675-1728, and two oil on canvas works by unknown artists: Young Woman with a Harpsichord, early 1700s, and Mother Ana María of the Precious Blood of Christ, ca. 1730.
Department of Painting and Sculpture
Coinciding with the DAM’s groundbreaking exhibition Wyeth: Andrew and Jamie in the Studio, a work by Andrew Wyeth has been given to the department of painting and sculpture by the Roath Collection. This early watercolor—the first work by Andrew Wyeth to enter the museum’s collection—is a complement to the DAM's American art holdings which already includes work by the artist's father, N.C. Wyeth.
Rough Hauling is on view on level 6 of the North Building through Jan. 24. Wyeth: Andrew and Jamie in the Studio will be on view through Feb. 7; a selection of works will then travel to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain.
Department of Architecture, Design and Graphics
Carl Patterson, DAM’s Conservator Emeritus, recently gave the department of architecture, design, and graphics 213 examples of Ruskin Pottery. Founded in 1898 by Edward Richard Taylor and his son William Howson Taylor, Ruskin Pottery was named after a founding writer and critic of the Arts & Crafts movement, John Ruskin. Ruskin Pottery was most notable for its innovative glazes. Throughout its 35-year history, the pottery produced decorative vessels, tableware, buttons and plaques intended to be set in silver as jewelry.
This remarkable gift, which includes examples of Ruskin’s four primary glazes on dozens of different ceramic shapes, will make the DAM collection of Ruskin Pottery one of the largest collections in the world and presents great opportunities for research, exhibition and publication. An exhibition featuring a large part of this gift is currently on view in the North Building on level 2.
The photography department acquired several significant pieces, including a very early Surrealist work. Beginning in 1925, photographer Francis Joseph Bruguière embarked on a collaborative film project with the dancer Sebastian Droste titled The Way. Droste envisioned a film that would explore a shifting series of psychological states, evoking both the disorientation of drug-induced euphoria and the alienation of psychotic paranoia. Bruguière produced an unknown number of photographs for the film, using Droste and other performers as models and incorporating multiple exposures and photomontage to create complex, dreamlike images. The photographs coincide with the publication of Andre Breton’s first Surrealist Manifesto and are considered to be the first Surrealist art works produced in the United States.
Other acquisitions in 2015 for the photography department include the 1999 Human Being portfolio of 40 platinum-palladium prints by Andrea Modica, Kenneth Josephson’s 1959 gelatin silver print Chicago, currently on view in Kenneth Josephson: Encounters with the Universe, and Laura Letinsky’s Untitled #7 from the series Fall, 2009.
Modern and Contemporary Art Department
The modern and contemporary art department has acquired a significant painting by contemporary Chinese innovator Zeng Fanzhi. Mask Series No. 10 is one of an important series of works that Zeng Fanzhi painted after moving from his Chinese home in Wuhan to Beijing in 1993. Coping with the alienation created by his move to the densely populated capital city, the artist found the mask to be a powerful symbol and a vehicle to explore personal identity and relationships. Exhibited widely in the U.S, Europe and Asia, Zeng Fanzhi's work is represented in many public and private collections. This work joins more than 300 others generously donated to the DAM by Vicki and Kent Logan.
The department’s growing collection of abstract expressionist paintings by women was expanded in 2015 with four paintings by female abstract expressionist artists Sonia Gechtoff, Betty Parsons and Deborah Remington.
Native Arts Department
A recent acquisition by the native arts department, Kent Monkman’s painting The Fourth World continues the artist’s visual dialogue with Western art canons and explores the impact of modernity on American Indian people. In this landscape that draws from Albert Bierstadt’s Cho-looke, the Yosemite Fall (1864), Monkman added blonde-haired men who use walls that reference Richard Serra’s Clara-Clara to capture or ‘impound’ wild game, or drive them off a cliff. These men relate to the Hopi prophesy of the end of the Fourth World, while continuing Monkman’s quest to populate Western landscapes devoid of people. The artist notes that: “The Hopi believe that one of the signs that the Fourth World is ending is that many white youth, who wear their hair long like the Hopi, will join the tribal nations to learn their ways and wisdom.” Monkman purposely leaves open whether these men are non-Natives living as Native people, or if they are Native people of mixed ancestry.
The former idea of these people as non-Natives highlights the notion of the cultural appropriation of Native cultures by non-Native people—a timely topic with all the recent press on how the fashion and entertainment industries have appropriated stereotypical aspects of Native fashion. The latter idea of these individuals as coming from a mixed ancestry highlights the notion of blood quantum as it relates to Native identity and questions what role blood has in determining who is Native.
Asian Art Department
One of the most innovative and important bamboo artists of his day, Kosuge Shochikudo (1921–2003) was known for his fine technique, modern forms and avant-garde collaborations with fashion designer Issey Miyake. The Asian art department has acquired a fine example of his work, Flower Basket, Ocean Robe, which is woven with even, very thin, diagonal slats into unusual deep lobes. The neck is indented and tied with a twisted rope knot, giving the impression of a supple textile. It is complete with a lacquered bamboo insert for use in flower arranging.
The department also acquired Flower Basket, a bamboo piece by Hayakawa Shokosai I dating from the late 1800s. Hayakawa Shokosai I was the son of a samurai from Echizen who moved to Kyoto and then Osaka in Japan to study rattan and bamboo work. He became involved in the circles of the Chinese style sencha tea ceremony, for whom he made Chinese style bamboo flower baskets. He was perhaps the first bamboo artist to sign his works, and began a lineage of artists that continues to the present day.
For further information or to request images, please contact a member of the DAM’s Communications team.
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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. 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 www.denverartmuseum.org.