After three years of renovation and new construction, The Denver Art Museum will reopen to the public on October 24 with a free general admission day. Director of The Denver Art Museum, Christoph Heinrich, says, “As part of the transformation of the Martin Building, we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to rethink and rehaul each and every one of the galleries. Not one gallery will look like it looked before, and that is not just a new paint coat or new flooring; it is a different approach to the objects.
“The collection galleries have been updated and reconceived with a commitment to telling more inclusive stories, including bringing in more contemporary artists and community voices to provide increased societal and historical contexts. For instance, in the indigenous collection there are many voices from members of different tribes telling the stories of the objects. We’re bringing the backstories of the objects to the forefront of the presentation. It will feel fresh, new, contemporary, engaging, and interactive.”
The reopening will mark the 50th anniversary of the newly coined “Lanny and Sharon Martin Building.” Designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates, the Martin Building has long been considered an architectural gem of Denver’s Golden Triangle. The 24th will also mark the opening of the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center that connects the Martin and the Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Buildings. Architecture and Urban Design Firm Machado Silvetti and Fentress reimagined the Martin Building and created the Welcome Center with reverence for Ponti’s original vision.
Renovations to the Martin Building include 33,328 square feet of new gallery and public space including the Bonfils Stanton Foundation Gallery—6,500 square feet of reclaimed storage space—that will feature special exhibitions drawn from the collections. Other improvements include the Jana & Fred Bartlit Learning and Engagement Center which features more than 17,600 square feet of flexible programming space on two levels including workshop rooms and the Singer Pollack Family Wonderscape which will host community-created exhibitions and school events. “We’ve dedicated a lot of real estate to educational programs,” Heinrich said. “We used to whine that we didn’t have the space to do this or that, but we don’t have that excuse anymore. When you have the space, you fill it with what matters.”
The 50,000-square-foot Sie Welcome Center features 25-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide scalloped glass panels. The Center, which offers two dining options, connects the entire campus and provides improved space for ticketing, visitor flow, and guest services. It also includes a preservation laboratory for the study and conservation of the museum’s 70,000 objects. The lab features north-facing windows which will offer indirect light—something that is key to preservation—as well as the opportunity for the public to get a behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s conservation work.
Other renovations include expanded gallery space including 7th-floor-views; infrastructure and safety upgrades including a new elevator core and a transparent public staircase; updated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; new skylights and revitalization of glass tiles to the building’s facade; as well as new floors and exterior insulation. A brand new courtyard includes a little arena in recognition of a pavilion Ponti envisioned, but didn’t get to build.
The renovation and expansion project cost a total of $150 million. Board Chairman, Lanny Martin and his wife Sharon, donated $25 million. Anna and John J. Sie donated $12 million. The 2007 Better Denver Bonds provided $3 million the Elevate Denver Bond initiative funded $35.5 million, and the museum matched public investment dollars with privately-raised funds at a three-to-one ratio.
Reopening events include the Unveiling Opening Gala on October 15. Tables are $15,000. A pair of seats is $2,500. Heinrich said they’re still deciding where those funds might be allocated, but possible benefactors include “a big show about The American Painters in France and one show that will be a killer for families with a big appeal for kids.” There’s also a Members’ Preview on October 21, 22, and 23, a Full Circle celebration on October 22, and a Grand Opening Reception for members only on October 20. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.denverartmuseum.org/en.