The Denver Art Museum (DAM) will reopen its expanded and reimagined campus to the public with a free general admission day on October 24, 2021, unveiling all eight levels of its iconic Gio Ponti- designed Lanny and Sharon Martin Building (formerly referred to as the North or Ponti Building), which originally opened to the public 50 years ago, and the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center. Part of an overall campus reunification and building renovation project designed by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects, the campus reopening coincides with the Martin Building’s 50th anniversary.
“We are looking forward to welcoming our community into new, dynamic spaces this fall, to explore art, world cultures and their own creativity,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “For more than three years, the north side of our campus has been undergoing a bold transformation to improve the visitor experience while honoring and preserving the building’s historic architecture. The events of the past year have reaffirmed the importance of art as a source of inspiration, healing and hope, and we look forward to showcasing the museum’s global collections through a new lens and providing new spaces for learning and engagement with the reopening of the full campus.”
The Martin Building has been fully restored and renovated throughout, which includes realizing Ponti’s original vision for the 7th floor, expanding gallery space and offering visitor access to stunning city and mountain views. The transformed Martin Building will showcase the museum’s encyclopedic collections from around the world and throughout history, while putting its nationally recognized educational programming at the center of the campus.
This October will also mark the opening of the museum’s new Sie Welcome Center, which connects the Hamilton and Martin buildings, and was designed by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects, with a nod to Gio Ponti’s original vision. The new building, crowned by an elliptical glass event and program space, visually connects the campus, creating improved spaces for ticketing and guest services, as well as two new dining options. The lower level houses a purpose-built art conservation and technical studies laboratory.
Inside the Martin Building, the new Jana & Fred Bartlit Learning & Engagement Center accommodates engagement for all ages, including space for student and community exhibitions, outdoor terraces, school and group reception, adult and youth classes, and artist interactions. These dynamic interactive spaces were designed by Mexico City-based design team Esrawe + Cadena with an eye toward playful, creative and inspired flexible spaces for varied programming.
As part of the transformation of the Martin Building, the collection galleries have been updated and reconceived with a commitment to telling more inclusive stories, including bringing in more contemporary artist and community voices to provide increased societal and historical contexts. Collection galleries housed in the Martin Building include new Design galleries and a reimagined Northwest Coast and Alaska Native gallery on level 2; reconceived Indigenous Arts of North America galleries on level 3; a new vision for Latin American Art and Art of the Ancient Americas galleries on level 4; newly installed Asian Art galleries on level 5; new European Art Before 1800 galleries, Textile Art and Fashion galleries and Photography galleries on level 6; and new and expanded Western American Art galleries on level 7, marking the first time that the DAM’s renowned Western collection has been presented in one space. Upon the opening of the Martin Building and Sie Welcome Center, the entire museum campus will also include bilingual art labels in English and Spanish.
Reclaiming space that was utilized as art storage for the last decade, the new Bonfils- Stanton Foundation Gallery, a 6,500-square- foot renovated gallery on level 1 in the Martin Building, will feature special exhibitions drawn primarily from the DAM’s collections. This space will open with the thematic exhibition ReVisión: Art in the Americas, which brings together works from the museum’s internationally acclaimed Latin American and Art of the Ancient Americas collections. From ancient artifacts to contemporary painting and sculpture, the exhibition places 180 works in dialogue to tell a fuller story of the region’s cultural heritage with gallery design by IKD of Boston and San Francisco. ReVisión: Art in the Americas and all Martin Building galleries opening in October will be included in general museum admission.
The Martin Building is named in honor of Denver Art Museum Board Chairman Lanny Martin and his wife Sharon Martin, who made the lead gift of $25 million for the $150 million construction and renovation project. City voters approved the Elevate Denver Bonds in 2017, which provided $35.5 million for crucial safety and infrastructure upgrades. The museum has matched public investment dollars with privately raised funds at a three-to-one ratio.
“This campus transformation ensures that the Denver Art Museum continues to serve as a beacon of creativity for the widest possible audience for decades to come,” said Lanny Martin, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “We are incredibly grateful for the support of all of the project’s donors, Elevate Denver Bond supporters and the greater cultural community, whose generosity ensures that the museum’s iconic campus will be a Denver destination for audiences of all ages.”
Since the opening of the Hamilton Building in 2006, the museum has served as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the surrounding Golden Triangle Creative District. Over the past decade, three adjacent museums have made their home in the neighborhood, creating a downtown cultural hub: the Clyfford Still Museum (2011); History Colorado Center (2012); and the relocated Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts (2018). At the same time, the Golden Triangle has continued to develop new residential and commercial properties as well as independent art galleries, restaurants and retail, creating a highly trafficked, walkable neighborhood with arts and culture at its core.
Martin Building and Sie Welcome Center Design
Designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates, the Martin Building opened in 1971. Its seven- story silhouette is one of the first-ever high- rise art museums and is the only completed building in North America by the renowned Italian modernist Gio Ponti.
The building’s renovation and upgrades were designed by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects, and constructed by Saunders Construction, Inc. The work includes the addition of 33,328 square feet of new gallery and public space, fulfilling Ponti’s original vision for visitor access to stunning 7th-floor views; the addition of skylights that reveal new angles of the building’s design; and exterior improvements such as lighting and revitalization of the glass tiles on the building’s façade. The renovation also includes updating environmental and other key systems with the latest technology. The completed project received LEED Silver certification. Infrastructure and safety upgrades include a new elevator core, which adds two additional elevators and a transparent public staircase for improved visitor flow, along with updated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, new windows, new flooring and new exterior wall insulation.
The 50,000-square-foot Sie Welcome Center’s second story façade is comprised of a series of 25-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide curved structural glass panels with insulated glazing—an unprecedented feat of engineering and the first building to use curved panels in this way. The welcome center serves as an entry point and a destination for visitors and seamlessly connects all aspects of the museum campus.
“The Martin Building is a treasured work in the Denver Art Museum’s collection, and the chance to celebrate Gio Ponti’s legacy and realize elements of his design through its renovation and restoration was a thrill for our team,” said Jorge Silvetti, Principal at Machado Silvetti. “To create the new Sie Welcome Center in the architecturally rich context of Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District, it was critical for us to design a structure that was simultaneously in dialogue with the vibrant visual language of Ponti and Studio Libeskind’s designs, while also providing connection to the museum. With its elliptical shape that is approachable from all angles, and transparent glass façade, the Sie Welcome Center is an inviting and glowing beacon to greet all visitors.”
Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Gallery (level 2)
Featuring more than 2,700 square feet of reimagined, immersive gallery space, the revitalized Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Gallery will present works by Indigenous artists from the western coastal region of North America, stretching from Puget Sound to southeastern Alaska. Continuing the DAM’s approach of highlighting individual artists, the gallery will center presentations and stories on artists, including new, commissioned works, while also tracing the ongoing continuum and traditions of Indigenous artists into the present day. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore several spaces that highlight the systems of community and place that root the artists and their practice. Alaska Native groupings look at the ways artworks and artists honor the deep spiritual bonds between humans, the landscape, and the animals that live there. Gallery design by Fricker Studio, Denver, Colo., and McGinty Co., Broomfield, Colo.
Design Galleries (level 2)
Home to more than 11,000 square feet of new and renovated space within the building’s original footprint created by bisecting the two- story gallery below, the Amanda J. Precourt and Joanne Posner Mayer Design Galleries will feature more than 400 objects spanning two exhibitions: By Design: Stories and Ideas Behind Objects and Gio Ponti: Designer of a Thousand Talents. Both exhibitions were designed by OMA New York and McGinty Co., Broomfield, Colo.
Comprising more than 19,000 works dating from the 16th century to the present day, the DAM’s Architecture and Design collection boasts one of the preeminent selections of modern and contemporary design at a comprehensive museum in the United States. The collection encompasses a broad range of design practices, including architecture, furniture, industrial design, and graphic design. The reinstalled galleries include dynamic spaces for visitors to engage with design and respond directly to the objects and ideas presented in the exhibition spaces. The companion Ellen Bruss Design Studio is an interactive space for all ages, created with the idea that design is everywhere. Building design awareness, the studio explores design as both a process and a result. Visitors can interact with designers in this area as well as work on their own design making and thinking.
Indigenous Arts of North America Galleries (level 3)
The DAM is home to a world-renowned and comprehensive collection of Indigenous Arts of North America. Works in the collection include objects created by artists from more than 250 Indigenous nations across the United States and Canada, and from artistic traditions within these cultures spanning the past 2,000 years. Comprised of 17,000 square feet, the reinstalled Indigenous Arts of North America galleries will present works organized in two areas, one presenting works according to region and the other according to themes. The re-envisioned installation will explore the inherited qualities of Indigenous artistic practice while also emphasizing the dynamism and innovation intrinsic both to the development of Indigenous contemporary art and to the perseverance of tribal cultures across time.
With a series of thematic vignettes and regionally focused installations, the newly designed galleries will put community voices at the forefront, with reimagined interpretive materials and video testimonials speaking directly to Indigenous experiences. A dedicated gallery titled Home/Land will center and honor Indigenous peoples from the surrounding area, including the Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. Throughout the galleries, visitors will encounter a series of themes, including the exploration of identity, the reframing of history through native eyes, and the continuity of Indigenous creativity. Dynamic videos that locate artworks in their historical contexts and illustrate their relevancy today will be part of the interpretive experience. A central interactive space promotes visitor reflection, connection and engagement with artist practice and the broader themes represented in the galleries. Additionally, this gallery is home to the studio for the museum’s Native Arts artist in residence program. Gallery design by Fricker Studio, Denver, Colo., and McGinty Co., Broomfield, Colo.
Latin American Art and Art of the Ancient Americas Galleries (level 4)
In this 20,000-square-foot reinstallation of the Frederick & Jan Mayer Galleries of the museum’s Art of the Ancient Americas and Latin American Art, collections will be exhibited in adjoining galleries, featuring more than 1,000 rare works and artifacts that present an expansive history of artistic creation in Latin America. These collections—among the most comprehensive in the United States—span 3,500 years of art and culture in Latin America and will be on view for the first time in one unified space, bridging the conceptual and temporal separation often placed between the two collections and unifying representation of pre- and post-colonial artistic creation in the region.
A new gallery dedicated to modern and contemporary works from Latin America will be part of the reimagined level four galleries, featuring works on loan from the John and Sandy Fox and Craig Ponzio collections.
The Art of the Ancient Americas gallery will present artwork made by Indigenous communities from across the Americas, the Southwestern United States to the Andes, beginning in 2000 BCE. The Latin American Art gallery will feature artwork created in Latin America between the 1500s and the early 1900s. The reinstallation will feature vibrant animations that bring origin stories of Ancient Americas to life, as well as opportunities for visitors to play with sound through an interactive experience that highlights the collection’s musical instruments. Gallery design by Agence NC, Paris, France, and Lisa McGuire, Granite, Colo.
Asian Art Galleries (level 5)
Comprising approximately 20,000 square feet, the DAM’s reinstalled Jesse & Nellie Schwayder Asian Art Galleries will house approximately 850 works spanning 5,000 years drawn from the museum’s exceptional collection, many on view to the public for the first time. In 2020, the Dennis and Alyssa Law Foundation Gift enhanced the Asian Art holdings with a significant group of Chinese and Himalayan works across media, with many important examples selected for the debut installation.
With a mix of treasures from the past and exciting contemporary additions, the galleries will present revitalized, broadened narratives emphasizing the continuity and connections between Asian artistic traditions across time. The reinstallation will be arranged so that visitors enter a cross-cultural gallery and then encounter regional galleries with objects representing the many cultures represented in the DAM’s collection. Continuing on, visitors will find galleries displaying works from major religions and material shared across Asia. This organization will highlight the diversity of artistic traditions across Asia while also underscoring their evolution and innovation through the present day. Interpretive elements within the galleries will recontextualize objects through videos, imagery, and interactive displays, fostering visitor participation and immersion into Asian cultures. Gallery design by Agence NC, Paris, France, and Lisa McGuire, Granite, Colo.
European Art Before 1800 Galleries (level 6)
The museum’s Davis W. Moore Galleries dedicates more than 6,700 square feet to European Art Before 1800, featuring approximately 65 works drawn from the DAM’s collection of paintings, and decorative arts to present a chronological history of European art through major themes. The installation will trace the development of stylistic themes as they evolved over time, from the Gothic style to the humanism of the Renaissance, to Baroque grandeur to the decorative forms of the Rococo. Designed to be an accessible entry point to European art for visitors of all backgrounds, the galleries will introduce historical contexts and provide audiences with the necessary background to understand and appreciate the objects on display. The department’s reconceived and relocated Bernadette Berger Discovery Library will provide an introduction. Gallery design by Stephen Saitas, NYC, and McGinty Co, Broomfield, Colo.
Textile Art and Fashion Galleries (level 6)
With 4,400 square feet of gallery space, DAM’s reimagined Avenir Foundation Textile Art and Fashion Galleries will feature temporary presentations. Textile presentations will alternate with exhibitions devoted to fashion. The gallery’s debut exhibition, Suited: Empowered Feminine Fashion, explores the evolution of the tailored suit for the female form over the course of the 20th century and beyond. The presentation features approximately 70 looks from 1900 through the present day, including pieces that will be sourced from the museum’s collection, private collections and loans from History Colorado Center.
Mining more than 100 years of fashion history, this exhibition will trace the ways in which high fashion developed alongside the changing role of women in society and growing feminism, and how styles shifted to incorporate menswear-inspired silhouettes and functional pieces conducive to complex lifestyles. The featured looks will reflect shifts in prevailing cultural attitudes regarding gender roles and identity, providing a lens through which to consider the impact of widespread social changes on the lives and behavior of individuals. This intimate presentation will share the history of couture and emphasize the ways in which women represent and empower themselves through their sartorial choices.
Adjacent to the main galleries, PreView will offer a behind-the-scenes look at museum textile conservators’ work examining and repairing the collection, as well as how objects are prepped for exhibition by the curatorial staff. The gallery-adjacent Nancy Lake Benson Thread Studio will offer interactive activities and displays to engage visitors with the role of textiles in daily life and highlight the creativity and ingenuity of textile artists and designers across time and around the world. Gallery and Thread Studio design by Sort Studio, Denver, Colo., and gallery graphics by McGinty Co., Broomfield, Colo.
Photography Galleries (level 6)
Spanning more than 2,800 square feet of the Martin Building’s sixth floor, the new Delisa & Anthony Mayer Galleries nearly double the exhibition space for photography and will be a place to see regular rotations of work from the permanent collection and beyond. The inaugural two-part exhibition, titled Curious Visions: Toward Abstract Photography, explores photographic experimentations with abstraction from the past 100 years. Approximately 60 works are featured, spotlighting photographers including Uta Barth, Jaromír Funke, Eliot Porter, Aaron Siskind, Man Ray and Brett Weston. The new galleries will incorporate a range of interactive engagement opportunities that prompt visitors to rethink their own relationship to photography in daily life. Gallery design by Stephen Saitas, NYC, and Amy Schell, Centennial, Colo.
Western American Art (level 7)
The Petrie Institute of Western American Art at DAM shepherds a leading collection of art of the American west spanning two centuries. Works from this collection will be on view in a completely reimagined display across 15,300 square feet in the Martha & Cortland Dietler and Helen & Arthur E. Johnson Galleries, unified in a single space for the first time. This new installation will tell the history of American art from a distinctly Western perspective, strengthened by DAM’s unique collection and its location in the heart of the Mountain West.
Essential to the Petrie Institute’s evolution has been the growth of the collection through the procurement of strategic acquisitions and significant gifts. Featuring paintings, sculptures and works on paper, the reinstalled galleries will expand the scope of the western American canon, borrowing from other DAM collections to incorporate narratives from diverse time periods, regions, and ethnic backgrounds. The presentation will address notions of American identity along with complex histories and perspectives spanning the Indigenous experience and Spanish colonialism, with works dating from 1822 through the present day. Visitors to the William M.B. Berger Western Studio also can explore how the West and its resources have shaped and connected the traditions, identities, and imagination of both the people who call it home and of those who are just passing through. Ideas about the land and belonging are explored through the senses, making, and through the voices of contemporary artists. Gallery design by Stephen Saitas, NYC, and McGinty Co., Broomfield, Colo.
Jana & Fred Bartlit Learning & Engagement Center
A key priority of the renovation project was to center the DAM’s renowned interactive and educational programs at the heart of the campus, in order to expand opportunities for creative exploration, human connection and lifelong learning. When designing and developing programming for the new center, the team focused on creating welcoming spaces that help connect visitors with artists and one another and inspire wellness with creative opportunities for visitors of all ages.
The new Jana & Fred Bartlit Learning and Engagement Center features more than 17,600 square feet of flexible programming space on two levels. Lower-level workshop rooms and the Singer Pollack Family Wonderscape will host community-created exhibitions and school events. With interactive spaces designed by Mexico City-based Esrawe + Cadena, the interactive Bartlit Center also features the Morgridge Creative Hub on the main level. Spanning more than 5,600 square feet, the Creative Hub is a place for gathering and connection, a platform for diverse and evolving community-driven programming and a celebration of local creativity, with members of the creative community developing many of the interactive elements, such as inaugural Creative Hub duo Frankie Toan and Moe Gram.
“Creativity is vital at all stages of life, and we look forward to unveiling these new spaces and programs designed for preschoolers to older adults,” said Heather Nielsen, Chief Learning and Engagement officer at the DAM. “One of our driving principles in designing and programming these spaces is that art has the power to heal, build community, deepen connections with others and create exchanges and dialogue.”
The Bartlit Center is now also a landing place for school and group reception, bringing the building’s original oval entrance back to public use with a newly designed Schlessman Bridge. The bridge connects to the iconic entryway, known by locals as “The Tube,” designed by Gio Ponti to 14th Avenue Parkway. It also will serve as the main entrance for visiting school and group tours, its new and open design providing an expanded Kemper Courtyard below, with a connection to outdoor garden spaces. The museum’s Free for Kids program, which underwrites admission for all visitors 18 and under, has funded more than 450,000 youth visits since its 2015 inception, increasing the need for adjacent outdoor spaces. The expanded Kemper Courtyard and outdoor spaces include an amphitheater space for performances, student lunch breaks, events and community gatherings.
Conservation and Technical Studies
The newly designed facility also includes an expanded, purpose-built laboratory for conservation and technical studies on the lower level of the Martin Building. Technical study and conservation treatment of the museum’s more than 70,000 collection objects is central to its ongoing mission to preserve cultural heritage for generations to come. The new laboratory features north-facing windows offering indirect, natural light—an essential tool in conservation treatment—that also will enable visitors and passersby to get a look at behind-the-scenes conservation work as it happens from the courtyard in front of the Martin Building.
The museum has met its capital fundraising goal of $150 million for this renovation and expansion project. In recognition of a $25 million lead gift from Board Chairman Lanny Martin and his wife, Sharon, the original Ponti- designed building has been renamed the Lanny and Sharon Martin Building. Additional lead capital gifts included $12 million from Anna and John J. Sie. Additional major support was provided by the Avenir Foundation, Fred and Jana Bartlit, the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation, the Sturm Family Foundation, Amanda J. Precourt, the Bonfils- Stanton Foundation, the Morgridge Family Foundation, John and Sandy Fox, the Mayer Family, the Schlessman Family Foundation and the Singer Family Foundation. In November 2017, voters approved $35.5 million in funding for the project through the city’s Elevate Denver bond initiative to help fund key infrastructure and safety upgrades for the Martin Building.
Dining and Events
The Sie Welcome Center features two new dining options on level 1, including a restaurant and a quick-service café. The Ponti restaurant, conceived in collaboration with James Beard Award winner and celebrated Denver chef Jennifer Jasinski, combines art and dining, presenting a locally sourced and seasonally inspired menu with high standards of sustainability. The Ponti opens to the public for daily lunch starting Oct. 24, and features an expansive outdoor terrace, as well as indoor public and private dining spaces spanning 4,000 square feet. The opening of reservations for the Ponti will be communicated at a later date.
The museum also will offer quick-service casual dining at Café Gio, found across the main hall from The Ponti. Patrons of the café will be able to enjoy both indoor and outdoor seating. Café Gio will be open daily during regular museum hours. Interiors of both dining destinations are designed by BOSS.architecture in collaboration with Jessica Doran Interiors.
The museum’s newly renovated Martin Building and Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Building are available for corporate meetings, parties, dinners, or galas. Event spaces can accommodate parties for an intimate group or up to 1,000 guests. The museum’s in-house caterer offers a wide variety of options to delight your guests.
Event space rentals will open for public bookings on May 20 for events taking place beginning November 2021. All museum events will follow the current public health and safety guidelines. For information, visit the “events” page on the museum website or email email@example.com.
A series of opening events will accompany the opening of the new Martin Building to celebrate the completed campus and thank the community for their support. An Opening Day celebration will take place on Sunday, Oct. 24. The all-day celebration will include free admission to all, as well as creative activities and moments for visitors of all ages. More details to be announced closer to opening day.
Museum members will have the opportunity for a pre-opening experience. Members-only previews will take place on Oct. 21, 22, and 23. The Martin Building, Sie Welcome Center, and both The Ponti and Café Gio will be open to all members those days. Details and booking information will be sent to members directly. Information on becoming a museum member or renewing membership is available here.
On the evening of Friday, October 15, is the museum’s Unveiled Opening Gala. This ticketed fundraising event will gather artists, patrons and trustees on a night unlike any other. Cocktail hour and dinner in the spectacular new Sturm Grand Pavilion will be included with the inspiring and unexpected program. Proceeds will support ongoing museum programming. See the museum website for more information on Unveiled.
The safety of visitors and staff remains a top priority, and the museum is continually updating its COVID-19 safety and security protocols based on advice from the CDC and federal and local guidelines. The museum will share more details on COVID-19 protocols that will be in place when the Martin Building reopens closer to the October opening date. Current protocols can be found in the Plan Your Visit section of the museum’s website.