Last Friday night, amidst the Parade of Lights’s tacky, colorful floats, kids lagging behind focused party-animal parents, fire engines, cars and roped off sidewalks and streets, The Clyfford Still Museum hosted a birthday party for what would have been their namesake’s 108th birthday.
The opening of the museum in 2011, will forever be remembered as one of John Hickenlooper‘s major deals. When most Denverites, art lovers to boot, had barely heard of Clyfford Still, Hickenlooper was on the East Coast negotiating an agreement to bring the artist’s entire body of work to the Mile High City. Our Hick (was he governor or mayor then?) conceived before anyone else that Still’s work would create an art destination for Denver. Actually there was no other way but to bring the whole kit n’ kaboodle because the artist’s will firmly stated his work could not be separated, and could only be shown alone and in a dedicated museum. I think we all thought that was rather arrogant at the time, but it has ultimately proven to be a significant art coup for Denver. As we’ve become comfortable with the museum and Still’s work, it is understandably, the only way it could have been. And Hickenlooper was spot-on. Still’s art and state-of-the-art museum has put Denver on the world art map. We are sincerely thankful to the largely, unfamiliar, mysterious 20th century American artist and his heirs, for this incomparable gift. Clyfford Still will forever be Denver’s.
Clyfford Still was a multi-faceted, cantankerous man. He was among the group of Abstract Expressionist artists in the 1950s , you’ve heard of: Jackson Pollack, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko. But his temperament and talent entreated him to sever ties with the art world and the renown Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City and, thus, leave the world of commercial promotion and galleries behind him. He then moved to Maryland where he worked for the next twenty years. Meticulously he rolled his finished, dried canvases then stored each one in his barn. He died in 1980.
His birthday party was an opportunity for fans to take another look around at this all inclusive art gem. The museum itself, is a work of art. Designed by Allied Works. The structure is a continuous form that is opened up by natural light. From every doorway and angled gallery, one of Still’s exquisitely large, colorful abstract creations is in full view. The building, walls and all, is made of textured concrete. Each gallery highlights Still’s larger than life art with changing scale, proportion, and varying light intensity. There is a serene beauty to the layout and one can never get enough of the artist’s changing styles and moods – from representational to severe abstract. I plan to learn more about this artist. What I’ve read and heard so far…he was the real thing.
At the party, left to right: Candice Pulliam, Art Services, http://www.locatefineart.com; Dean Sobel, Director of the Clyfford Still Museum, http://www.clyffordstillmuseum.org, Robin & Jack Lima, owners of the Native American Trading Company & Gallery, http://www.nativeamericantradingco.com. The Lima’s confirmed that people come from all over the world to see the museum and the work of Clyfford Still. Explaining that after visiting the DAM and the Still Museum, tourists wander into their gallery across the street.
The Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock Street, Denver, 80204. 720-354-4880.