DENVER ART MUSEUM MILESTONES
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.
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.
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.
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.
The textile art department begins. In 2017, the department is renamed textile art and fashion.
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.
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.
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 museum appoints Royal Hassrick as its first curator of western American art.
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.
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.
The North Building opens; only completed building in North America by architect Gio Ponti. Learn about the renovation project.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Hamilton Building opened. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, this building nearly doubled the size of the museum.
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.
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.
The museum discovers a Canaletto masterwork in its collection, and it undergoes extensive conservation.
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).
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.
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.
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).
The Free for Kids program begins, granting youth 18 and younger free general admission each day.
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.
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.