Timeline

DENVER ART MUSEUM MILESTONES

  • 1893

    A small group of Denver professional artists found the Denver Artists' Club. The name is changed to the Denver Art Association in 1917 and the Denver Art Museum in 1923.

    images of the founders of the Denver Artists Club

    A composite photograph of the founders of the Artists Club of Denver. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Department.

  • 1915

    The museum begins collecting Asian art with a donation of Chinese and Japanese art objects from a single passionate collector. Today, the collection has broadened to include works from the entire Asian continent. Spanning a period from the fourth millennium B.C. to the present, these objects illustrate the wide-ranging achievements of Asian artists and artisans.

    Shiva, King of Dancers

    Shiva, King of Dancers (Shiva Nataraja), 13th century, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, India. Bronze; 36-7/8 in. h. Denver Art Museum; funds from Dora Porter Mason bequest. 1947.2

  • 1922

    The Chapell House is the first permanent home of the Denver Art Museum. Built in the 1880s by mining magnate Horace Bennett, this Capitol Hill mansion belonged to the Chapell family for 15 years before it became the first property owned by the museum.

    Chapelle House

    Photo from the publication The First Hundred Years. © Denver Art Museum.

  • 1925

    The DAM becomes the first major art museum in the United States to collect American Indian art as art rather than artifacts. The American Indian art collection represents the artistic works of nearly every tribe across the United States and Canada and all artistic traditions created within these cultures from prehistoric times to the present.

    Nez Perce artist. Shirt, about 1885. Leather, ermine, glass beads, and paint

    Nez Perce artist. Shirt, about 1885. Leather, ermine, glass beads, and paint; 38 x 58 x 65 1/2 in. (sleeves extended). Denver Art Museum:Native Arts acquisition fund, 1940.26

  • 1927

    The textile art department begins. In 2017, the department is renamed textile art and fashion.

    Hanging

    Ottoman Empire

    1700s – 1800s

    Wool appliqué, silk and metal thread embroidery on wool

    Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Jeff Bain

    1983.234

  • 1929

    Education has long been a part of the museum's mission. This letter from 1929 is the earliest reference to classes and education we found in our archives. Learn about our current classes, lectures, and other programs for adults and for educational and fun activities for kids and families.

    a typewritten letter from 1929 regarding a Saturday morning art class for youth

    Photo from the Denver Art Museum archives.

  • 1929

    Frederic H. Douglas is appointed curator of American Indian art. He is the museum's first full-time curator.

    Curator Frederic Douglas examining American Indian clothing, about 1950.

    Curator Frederic Douglas examining American Indian clothing, about 1950.

  • 1932

    The museum receives a bequest of $100,000 from Denver schoolteacher Helen Dill, which allows the purchase of works by Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Winslow Homer, and others. The Helen Dill Society honors those who continue her commitment with a bequest or other estate plan arrangement benefiting the DAM.

    sepia toned photo of Helen Dill from around 1875

    Charles Bohm (American, born in Germany, 1846–1885), Portrait of Helen Lynch Dill, 1875-80. Gift of Caleb R. (Russ) Symons, Jr. and Paul Millette.

  • 1944

    Otto Karl Bach joined the museum as director. Bach's intention was to build an encyclopedic collection of world art and make art a "part of everyday life." He served as director for 30 years. Explore select works from the DAM's collection of art from around the world.

    DAM Director Otto Karl Bach in the carpentry workshop at the Chapell House

    Director Otto Karl Bach in the carpentry workshop in Chapell House in 1944. © Denver Art Museum

  • 1949

    The Denver Art Museum building on Acoma Street opened in 1949. It had big display windows designed to catch the attention of passersby like downtown store windows.

    The Denver Art Museum in the 1940s.

    © Denver Art Museum

  • 1950s

    The museum appoints Royal Hassrick as its first curator of western American art.

    Albert Bierstadt

    American, 1830–1902

    Wind River Country

    1860

    Oil paint on canvas

    The Charles H. Bayly Collection, 1987.47

  • 1961

    The museum receives the Samuel H. Kress collection of 37 Renaissance paintings and sculptures dating from the mid-1300s to the mid-1600s after Otto Bach proposed Denver as a candidate for part of the Kress Foundation's vast collection. The museum built a new wing in 1954 to display these works.

    South Wing displaying the Kress Collection of artworks

    © Denver Art Museum

  • 1968

    The DAM establishes the New World department, which oversees the pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art collections. Notable for its cultural and temporal range and artistic quality, the Spanish Colonial collection is the most comprehensive collection in the United States and one of the best in the world. The pre-Columbian collection represents nearly every major culture in Mesoamerica, Central America, and South America. Included are masterworks in ceramic, stone, gold, jade, and textiles.

    Breastplate

    Panama, Azuero Peninsula, A.D. 1200

    Hammered gold alloy

    5 ¼ in. diam.

    Department acquisition funds, 1965.196

  • 1971

    The North Building opens; only completed building in North America by architect Gio Ponti. Learn about the renovation project.

    North Building under construction in 1969. Courtesy Denver Art Museum.

    North Building under construction in 1969. Courtesy Denver Art Museum.

  • 1971

    In 1971 docents at the museum conducted tours for more than 60,000 school students. Today, the Denver Art Museum hosts more than 71,000 students and their teachers from over 650 Colorado schools free of charge.

    a Head Start group at the museum in 1971

    This photo of a Head Start group visiting the museum was published in our 1971 annual report. Photo courtesy of The Denver Post.

  • 1977

    The Cile Bach Award is created to recognize DAM volunteers. The award was named after Cile Bach to honor her longtime service to the museum. Through the years her husband Otto was director, she worked as registrar, director of publicity, and director of publications for the museum. She also worked closely with docents and coordinated volunteer fundraising events. The first awards were given in 1978 to Harry Eaton, Betty Girsh, and Ethel Griffith.

    black and white photo of Cile Bach

    © Denver Art Museum

  • 1978

    The modern and contemporary art department is established. Encompassing over 12,500 works made since 1900, the museum’s modern and contemporary collection includes works by artistic luminaries as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as 33 paintings, drawings, and collages by the acclaimed abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell.

    black and white photo of Frank Stella at the museum with a group of people

    Artist Frank Stella at the museum.

  • 1980

    The museum holds its first Collectors' Choice, the museum's black-tie fundraising gala. View photos from Collectors’ Choice galas held between 2017 and 2009.

    Mrs. Len Mayer and Mrs. L. Darby Smith, cochairs of the 1980 Collectors' Choice with curator Imelda DeGraw in front of a tapestry

    Mrs. Len Mayer and Mrs. L. Darby Smith, cochairs of the 1980 Collectors' Choice, with curator Imelda DeGraw in front of the Peasants' Feast tapestry. Photo from 1980 Denver Art Museum annual report.

  • 1984

    One of the museum's most popular objects, the lifelike sculpture Linda, comes into the modern and contemporary art collection. Linda was last on view at the DAM in 2015. Learn how the DAM conserves this sculpture.

    The sculpture Linda and the woman who modeled for her together

    Linda Keller and Linda during the "Sweet 16 Party" for the lifelike sculpture at the museum in 1998.

  • 1988

    Denver metro voters approve the creation of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), establishing an ongoing source of tax-based funding for arts and culture organizations, including the DAM.

    SCFD 30 years logo
  • 1989

    The museum holds the first Annual Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration featuring Native art, drumming, dance, food, and more. September 8 is the 29th annual event.

    American Indian dancers in front of the North Building

    American Indian dancers at a Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration.

  • 1991

    The conservation department is established with the primary responsibility to care for the museum’s collection in accordance with our mission to preserve works of art for future generations.

    Conservators at the DAM treating an outdoor sculpture.
  • 1995

    The architecture, design, and graphics department opens its first permanent galleries. The collection features modern and contemporary architecture, furniture, and industrial and graphic design, and showcases designers and movements from this period. Also in the collection are works from the Middle Ages to the 1900s that represent major developments in style, form, material, and technique in European and North American furniture and decorative arts.

    Gallery view of 1995 exhibition Industrial Revolution

    Gallery view of 1995 exhibition Industrial Revolution.

  • 2001

    The Harmsen Collection of western American Art is donated to the museum, and the Institute for Western American Art is established. This collection encompasses two centuries of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper related to the West, and is particularly strong in bronze sculpture, artists affiliated with the Taos Society of Artists, and 20th-century modernism. In 2007 the Thomas A. Petrie family partially endows the department and it becomes the Petrie Institute of Western American Art.

    Raymond Jonson

    American, 1891–1982

    Pueblo Series, Acoma

    1927

    Oil paint on canvas

    William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.441

  • 2001

    The Frederick & Jan Mayer Center for pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art is established through an endowment gift from Frederick and Jan Mayer. The Mayer Center sponsors annual symposia and publication of their proceedings, the publication of additional volumes, research opportunities including a resident fellowship program, and periodic study tours to Latin America and Spain.

    Garden Party on the Terrace of a Country Home

    Mexico, circa 1725

    Oil, canvas, gold

    Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer; 2009.759

  • 2002

    The museum hosts its first Día del Niño (Day of the Child), joining in the international celebration of children. This year the event is April 29.

    dancers during a performance at Dia del Nino

    Dancers performing at Día del Niño at the Denver Art Museum.

  • 2006

    The Hamilton Building opened. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, this building nearly doubled the size of the museum.

    Lines of people going into the Hamilton Building on opening weekend

    Lines of people going into the Hamilton Building during the opening weekend. © Denver Art Museum

  • 2007

    The museum holds its first Untitled Final Friday, our late-night program in collaboration with Denver's creative community. Experience the museum in a new way each final Friday of the month January-October. Check out videos from some past Untitled events.

    A person at Untitled
  • 2008

    The photography department is established. It is recognized for its extensive holdings of nineteenth-century work, notably of the American West. Collectively, the museum’s works of early photography reflect both the achievements of the medium’s outstanding practitioners and the shifting environmental attitudes of nineteenth-century Americans. The collection also has strong holdings of European and American modernist photography.

    William H. Bell

    American, born England (1830-1910)

    Cañon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking South

    1872

    Albumen print

    1991.483.17

  • 2011

    The DAM develops a campus-wide exhibition focused on one major theme. Marvelous Mud: Clay Around the World is the museum's first such cross-departmental exhibition, followed by Spun: Adventures in Textiles in 2013, Arrangements in 2015 (to coincide with In Bloom: Painting Flowers in the Age of Impressionism), and the current Stampede: Animals in Art.

    Roxanne Swentzell, Santa Clara, Mud Woman Rolls On, 2011

    Roxanne Swentzell, Santa Clara, Mud Woman Rolls On, 2011. Unfired clay and plant fiber; 10 x 6.75 x 11 ft. Native Arts acquisition fund, 2010.570

  • 2012

    The museum discovers a Canaletto masterwork in its collection, and it undergoes extensive conservation.

    Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto,

    Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, Venice: The Molo from the Bacino di S. Marco, about 1724. Oil on canvas. Denver Art Museum, Bequest of Charles Edwin M. Stanton. 2009.336

  • 2012

    The museum was the only venue in the world for Becoming Van Gogh, an examination of the artist's evolution through more than 70 paintings and drawings. The DAM has since built on this experience and presented other exhibitions that explore how artists developed into ones the world came to know, including Joan Miró: Instinct & Imagination, Wyeth: Andrew and Jamie in the Studio, and Degas: A Passion for Perfection (on view through May 20).

    Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1887, Oil on canvas, 16 1/8 x 13 inches (41 x 33 cm); Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation); F: 469, JH: 1310

  • 2012

    The DAM showcased Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, a sweeping exhibition of the designer’s 40 years of creativity and debuted new textile galleries, garnering worldwide acclaim and setting a new standard for textile art exhibitions. In November 2018, the museum will build on that experience and present Dior: From Paris to the World.

    Yves Saint Laurent – The Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum, March 25-July 8, 2012.

    Yves Saint Laurent – The Retrospective was organized by the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum. Funding was provided by the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign.

  • 2013

    Denver collector Henry Roath pledges to give the Petrie Institute of Western American Art his collection of artworks by masters of the American West. The Roath Collection includes more than 100 works ranging in date from the 1870s to the 1970s with a focus on art of the American Southwest. With iconic works from nearly every artist associated with the Taos Society of Artists, this collection is one of the best groups of Western American art in private hands.

    Joseph H. Sharp (American, 1859–1953), Summer Visitors, date not known. Oil paint on canvas. The Roath Collection.

  • 2014

    Frederic C. Hamilton bequeaths 22 impressionist masterworks to the museum, the largest gift to the museum. The gift includes four works by Claude Monet including Path in the Wheat Fields at Pourville (Chemin dans les blés à Pourville).

    Claude Monet, Path in the Wheat Fields at Pourville (Chemin dans les blés à Pourville), 1882. Oil paint on canvas, 23" x 30 1/2", Denver Art Museum Collection: Collection of Frederic C. Hamilton, 2016.365

  • 2015

    The Free for Kids program begins, granting youth 18 and younger free general admission each day.

    A girl painting wearing a Free for Kids admission sticker

    A young visitor involved in an artmaking project.

  • 2017

    Thanks to a blockbuster lineup of exhibitions including Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume, the museum saw a record attendance of more than 870,000 people.

    three kids in the Costume Studio during the Star Wars exhibition

    Young visitors in the Costume Studio during the Star Wars™ exhibition.

  • 2018

    On January 10, the museum officially broke ground for the North Building renovation project. Key project elements include bringing educational programs to the center of the campus, expanding gallery spaces for growing collections, and completing Ponti’s original vision for visitor access to stunning 7th-floor views.

    Dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremony for the North Building renovation project

    (L-R) Michelle Sie Whitten, Curt Fentress, Jorge Silvetti, Lanny Martin, Anna Sie, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancokc, John J. Sie, Sharon Martin, Christoph Heinrich at the groundbreaking ceremony on January 10, 2018.

  • 2018

    The DAM has a stellar lineup for this year including Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker (opens in September) and Dior: From Paris to the World (opens in November).

    Rembrandt Harmens Van Rijn, Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639 (detail). Etching, with touches of drypoint; image height: 8.07 x image width: 6.45 in. Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Image courtesy of BnF.

    Rembrandt Harmens Van Rijn, Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639 (detail). Etching, with touches of drypoint; image height: 8.07 x image width: 6.45 in. Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Image courtesy of BnF.