To enrich the lives of present and future generations through the acquisition, presentation, and preservation of works of art, supported by exemplary scholarship and public programs related to both its permanent collections and to temporary exhibitions presented by the museum.
Founded in 1893 as the Denver Artists' Club, the Denver Art Museum today is one of the largest art museums between Chicago and the West Coast. The museum’s global art collections represent cultures around the world, with more than 70,000 works of art in 12 collections, including African art, architecture and design, art of the ancient Americas, Asian art, European and American art before 1900, Latin American art, Oceanic art, modern and contemporary art, photography, textile art and fashion, Indigenous arts of North America, and western American art. The museum’s global collections also reflect work by artists from Denver and the Rocky Mountain region—and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about the world.
Throughout its history, the Denver Art Museum has had a number of temporary homes, including the public library, a downtown mansion, and a portion of the Denver City and County Building. In 1949, the museum opened its own galleries on 14th Avenue Parkway. In 1954, the museum opened the Bach wing – with additional gallery spaces and a center for children's art activities.
In 1971, the museum opened the North Building, now known as the Martin Building, designed by renowned Italian modernist Gio Ponti in collaboration with James Sudler Associates of Denver. Ponti’s signature contributions to the museum’s design are immediately apparent in features that break up the massive appearance of the vertical structure and add to its sculptural richness. A thin exterior wall, with 28 vertical surfaces of varying planes and changing dimension, wraps the entire building. More than one million reflective warm-gray glass tiles, developed especially for this building by Corning Glass Works, cover the exterior. The tiles create constantly shifting patterns of light and shadow depending on the time of day. Windows of various sizes and shapes—square, rectangular, and lozenge—are arranged in a seemingly random pattern but intentionally frame views of the mountains and reveal interesting cityscapes. When the North Building opened, it was viewed as a “forerunner in the worldwide transformation of the temple-style museum into a proliferation of unprecedented and startling architectural forms."
This bold tradition continued in 2000, with the selection of Daniel Libeskind for a visionary take on an expansion of the museum campus. Opening to the public in October 2006, the resulting 146,000-square-foot Frederic C. Hamilton Building is situated directly south of the Martin Building. The complex geometric design of the Hamilton Building consists of 20 sloping planes, and is clad in 230,000 square feet of titanium panels. The Reiman Bridge links the Hamilton Building to the north side of the campus. The Hamilton Building includes the museum’s major exhibition spaces for special presentations and traveling art shows, as well as significant art storage and conservation spaces.
In 2015, following efforts to focus on equal access to the arts and art education for young people, the Denver Art Museum announced its groundbreaking Free for Kids program, underwriting admission for all youth ages 18 and under. The program was created with leadership and support from museum trustee Scott Reiman, and additional support from corporate sponsors.
Following several years of increased attendance growth as well as a change in how the museum serves the wider community, the Denver Art Museum in 2016 announced a significant renovation and expansion of the North end of the campus. Launched with a $25 million lead gift from museum board chairman Lanny Martin and his wife, Sharon, the project included the complete renovation of the nearly 50-year-old Ponti-designed building, as well as the new 210,000-square-foot Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center, housing guest services and two dining options.
The new spaces include brand new collection gallery space for the museum’s Architecture and Design collection, as well as expanded gallery space for Western American art. A new 7th floor public space will offer sweeping views of downtown and the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape. Slated to reopen by the Martin Building’s 50th anniversary at the end of 2021, the new spaces bring the museum’s world-renowned museum education programming for all ages to the center of the campus.
In 1971, the museum opened what is now known as the Martin Building (formerly the North Building), designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates. The eight-story, 210,000-square-foot building allowed the museum to display its collections under one roof for the first time. This architectural icon remains the only completed project in the United States by this important Italian master of modern design.
The Martin Building was an innovative move away from traditional, temple-style museum architecture. More than a million reflective glass tiles and 28 vertical surfaces of varying planes on the building's exterior complement the dramatic windows and pierced roofline of the building's castle-like facade. "Art is a treasure, and these thin but jealous walls defend it," said Gio Ponti of the building design.
Martin Building Project
With construction completed in 2019 and the campus scheduled to be reopened in its entirety by the end of 2021, the Martin Building renovation, including the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center expansion will increase the museum’s ability to serve its average of 800,000 visitors per year. The completed project brings the museum’s world-renowned arts education programming to the center of the campus with the Bartlit Learning and Engagement Center welcoming visitors of all ages. Expanded and renovated gallery spaces will provide more public access and art display. When reopened, the campus will enable the museum to better welcome the community and Denver visitors, as well as preserve and present priceless works of art from cultures around the world and throughout history for generations to come.
Frederic C. Hamilton Building
Continuing a legacy of bold architecture, the museum commissioned architect Daniel Libeskind to design an expansion that would accommodate growing collections and programs. The 146,000-square-foot Hamilton Building opened to the public October 7, 2006.
Linking to the Sie Welcome Center on the north side of the campus via the Reiman Bridge across 13th Avenue, the Hamilton Building's design recalls the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and geometric rock
crystals found in the foothills near Denver. "I was inspired by the light and the geology of the Rockies, but most of all by the wide-open faces of the people of Denver," Libeskind said. The building is covered in 9,000 titanium panels that reflect the Colorado sunshine.
Bannock Administration Building
The 50,000-square-foot structure is located immediately west of the museum's Hamilton Building and directly south of the Clyfford Still Museum. The building opened in April 2014, bringing more than 100 museum employees to the museum campus, including administrative staff, curators, and educators that formerly were in office space five blocks away at 14th Street and Tremont. The privately funded project also contains the Frederick R. Mayer Library and 9,000 square feet of collection storage.
Denver-based Roth Sheppard Architects and Saunders Construction, Inc., were selected to design and construct the building, which features glass and light-colored stone on the exterior to complement neighboring structures, and an open floor plan with various brainstorming zones that provide optimal working and meeting spaces to inspire creativity.
Denver Art Museum Annual Report 2019-2020
The end of each year allows us to reflect on the good fortune and experiences we shared with our visitors, members, donors, volunteers, and staff. Take a look back at the successes and challenges of the past year by browsing through our digital 2019-2020 annual report.
The DAM is a member of: American Alliance of Museums, Association of Art Museum Directors, Association of North Front Range Museums, Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums, Contemporary Art Colorado, French Regional and American Museums Exchange, Mountain-Plains Museum Association, Smithsonian Affiliate