During 2017, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) strategically enhanced the breadth and depth of its collection through a variety of major acquisitions, both purchases and gifts from generous museum supporters. This 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. Following are some selected acquisition highlights from 2017.
The painting and sculpture department added Eva Gonzalès’ painting La Fenêtre (The Window) to the collection. The department has made a concerted effort to acquire major works by women artists, including still life paintings by Maria Van Oosterwijck, Marguerite Gérard and Berthe Morisot. With this painting, the museum was able to add to this growing list, obtain another major work by an important French Impressionist artist, and add an Impressionist portrait to the collection.
La Fenêtre (The Window) was featured in the recent exhibition Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism.
Continuing to enhance its fashion holdings, the department of textile art and fashion added two pieces by American designer Ralph Rucci to the collection. One coat and trouser ensemble is of ivory wool crepe and silk pongee, while the other (currently on display in the Stampede: Animals in Art exhibition) is a black cashmere skirt with matching jacket embroidered with appliqued leather. Both were gifted to the museum by Mrs. William McCormick Blair, Jr.
The DAM’s department of modern and contemporary art acquired a monumental work by renowned contemporary American artist Mark Bradford, who represented the United States at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Bradford creates intricately detailed wall-sized collages and installations in response to impromptu networks—underground economies, marginalized communities and abandonment of the urban fabric.
Using a range of materials scavenged or purchased, he cobbles together layers of papers and detritus before digging into the dense surface with a knife and sander. The painterly structures that emerge appear to sprawl and swirl across the picture plane, reminiscent of the social unrest that fuels Bradford’s exploration of the world through abstract paintings.
Realness, one of a series of works that Bradford made in dialogue with the creative practice of Clyfford Still, was part of the exhibition Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford, which was presented at the DAM and Clyfford Still Museum during the summer of 2017.
Another significant work to enter the collection is Ana Mendieta’s Volcán. A pioneering feminist who also was an early practitioner of performance, video and earth art, Mendieta’s work focuses on the relationship between the nature and the female body. "Volcán" is part of Mendieta’s "Silueta (Silhouette)" series (1973-80).
Moving between sculpture, performance, earth art and film, the artist hand-built a small knoll on the banks of Old Man’s Creek in Iowa, carved a cavity into the mound in the shape of a primitive female goddess, filled the hole with combustible materials, and recorded the mound igniting and burning.
Its simplicity speaks to the artist’s deft interlacing of nature—displayed as earth, wind, fire and water—and references to a goddess figure shown in the shape of the opening. The eruption of fire from the arid earth is a reference to Santeria, which Mendieta acknowledged as part of her understanding of the spiritual.
The department of modern and contemporary art made several other important acquisitions, including Francesco Clemente’s portrait of art collectors Kent and Vicki Logan, gifted by the Logans, and Trenton Doyle Hancock’s mixed media work The Legend Is In Trouble.
The Native arts department made a significant addition to its holdings of works by First Nations artist Kent Monkman (Fish River band Cree/Irish). The Scream represents a dramatic shift for Monkman, whose earlier work often utilized humor to defuse tension when presenting challenging subjects. This painting—anything but humorous—is horrifying, powerful and haunting.
In a monumental work that draws inspiration from two of Peter Paul Rubens’ 17th century Massacre of the Innocents paintings, Monkman depicts First Nations children being forcibly taken from their families and sent to residential schools. The effects of these traumatic experiences are still felt today through language loss, culture change and disruptions in the transmission of cultural knowledge.
The Scream was created for the touring exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, produced by the Art Museum at the University of Toronto in partnership with the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown, which “narrates a story of Canada through the lens of First Nations' resilience."
The DAM holds the largest collection of Kent Monkman works in the United States, and The Scream provides a new direction and dimension to the museum’s holdings.
The Petrie Institute of Western American Art purchased a painting by Sven Birger Sandzén (American, b. in Sweden, 1871–1954) with strong Colorado ties. After moving from Europe to Kansas, Sandzén visited Colorado every summer between 1908 and 1952.
In this painting, Longs Peak crowns the colorful visual “symphony” of Sandzén's interpretation of Rocky Mountain National Park. The vibrant palette, broad brush strokes and sculptural quality of the paint surface reflect the influence of late 19th- and early 20th-century modernist techniques, many of which Sandzén absorbed while studying in Paris.
A Mountain Symphony, which has not been on public view since 1927, is currently on display on level 2 in the Western American art galleries.
The photography department acquired a collection of 30 photographs by American photographer Brett Weston, including Tree and Rock Wall, Glen Canyon. Too often eclipsed by his father, Edward Weston, Brett developed a distinctive vision and enjoyed a long and influential career of his own.
In 1932, both men were founding members of Group f/64, a Bay Area confederation of photographers that included Imogen Cunningham, Willard Van Dyke and Ansel Adams, among others.
Rejecting the then-popular Pictorialist approach to photography, which employed soft-focus lenses and hand-applied photographic emulsions to produce painterly effects, the group embraced a sharp, clear, direct photography that celebrated the medium’s unique qualities and elevated straightforward seeing above ideation or style for its own sake.
The theories and photographs of Group f/64 reverberated through American photography for 50 years thereafter and influenced many artists.
This group of acquisitions establishes Brett’s presence in the DAM photography collection to be celebrated and enjoyed in its own right as well as enhancing public understanding of American landscape and abstract photography in the middle of the 20th century.
A series of 12 photographs by Andrew Beckham, an important figure among photographers in the Rocky Mountain West for more than 20 years, as well as images by Imogen Cunningham, Sharon Harper, Lisa Kereszi, John Lehr, Henry Wessel, Jr., and Minor White also entered the collection in 2017.
The Asian art department has added a Tang Dynasty ceramic horse to the collection. Ceramic horse sculptures are frequently found in Tang Dynasty tombs. Modeled in a variety of poses, with or without riders, some are fully glazed while others are painted in various colors. Horses played significant roles in Tang Dynasty military, hunting and sports as well as providing transportation along the Silk Road.
Imported breeds from Central Asia areas were particularly favored as they were more robust and speedy than the indigenous Chinese horses. They were greatly admired by the Tang court and the aristocracy, and most of the ceramic horses were modeled on these imported horses. This elegant example was bequeathed to the Asian art department by Bernadette Berger.
Established in 2009, gt2P (great things to People) is a multidisciplinary design collective based in Santiago, Chile. Their early work focused on digital design and manufacture, but their projects have evolved to combine new technologies with aspects of South American culture.
The Remolten series of stools and tables, made from stoneware and coated in re-melted volcanic rock, explore the idea of lava reforming a landscape each time a volcano erupts. gt2P collects a porous lightweight black rock known as basaltic andesite, or hardened lava, and melts it in their studio to create three different finishes: Trapelco, Mahuanco and Quitralco—which mean, in the language of indigenous people of south-central Chile and west-central Argentina, smooth, dripped and rough.
This particular series, one of two joint 2017 acquisitions by the architecture, design and graphics department and the New World department, is comprised of the Revolution Stool L, Revolution Aux Table M, and Revolution Stool L, all three made from basaltic andesite collected from the Osorno volcano.
Additional acquisitions by the architecture, design and graphics department included a 1969 silkscreen print (Chicago Has Two Great Zoos) by John Rieben, chairs by designers Jørgen Høvelskov, Grete Jalk and Ali Tayar, a Denmark tea and coffee service by John Prip, Big Chandelier by Johanna Grawunder, Petal Table by Richard Schultz, and a joint acquisition with the New World department of a 2017 glass Katsina Tetañaya by Edgar Orlaineta.
The New World department added a significant Spanish Colonial painting as well as a contemporary work inspired by Mesoamerican culture to the collection.
Designed in 2005 for the Second Biennial of Latin American Design in Amsterdam by Mauricio Lara Eguiluz, the Chac Seat was inspired by the Chac Mool, a particular type of Mesoamerican pre-Hispanic sculpture that depicts a reclining figure with its knees bent and its head turned 90 degrees to the front, supporting itself on its elbows. These figures symbolized slain warriors or captives carrying offerings to the gods.
Lara says of the project, “I was looking for a representative and unique element of some of the most emblematic pre-Hispanic cultures of our country, I found the Mayan god Chac-Mool. Its role as a messenger between the gods and humans gave me the silhouette to create the unique design of this seat.”
The Chac Seat also was a joint acquisition by the architecture, design and graphics and New World departments.
Active in Lima, Peru between 1770 and 1815, Pedro Diaz is considered the most important painter of the late colonial period in Peru. Celebrated in his day, Diaz excelled in religious images and portraits.
This early work, which depicts the Virgin Mary and Child surrounded by small angels, demonstrates the influence of Diaz’s mentor Cristobal Lozano who a few decades earlier renovated the painting tradition in Lima by skillfully blending French-inspired repertoires and palettes with the more severe style of late 17th century Spanish painting.
For further information or to request images, please contact a member of the DAM’s Communications team.
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