The world of fine art is quite intimidating, but even for neophytes, the names Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollack should ring a bell. Although Clyfford Still (1904-1980) is the least known of the well known, he is a pillar of influence in the abstract expressionism movement.
Despite Still’s artistic impact throughout his life, he was adamantly against making his works available for public viewing in art galleries and museums – or even for sale. He did know, however, that one day the world deserved to see his extensive collection and only following his death did plans get underway.
A one-page will detailed specific instructions to give his entire estate “to an American city willing to establish permanent quarters dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study.”
So, why Denver? It wasn’t until 2004, after turning down cities like San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York did Still’s wife, Patricia, choose Denver. In a place where the couple had no real ties – aside from a resident nephew – Patricia met extensively with then Mayor John Hickenlooper to finally make Clyfford Still known to the masses.
The Clyfford Still Museum, just adjacent to the Denver Art Museum, is now an eternal home for its namesake and houses 94% of Still’s entire collection. Only 103 total pieces are on initial display – many of which have never been viewed publicly. His remaining works hang behind glass doors in a unique storage space on the first floor – almost an exhibit in itself.
The celebration of this milestone kicked-off last Monday with a week-long schedule of private viewings and an exclusive gala. The grand opening festivities culminated on Friday evening with “En Route: Denver” taking art aficionados on a journey through Still’s life and ever-evolving works. The museum, a concrete masterpiece designed by Allied Works Architecture, is separated into chronological galleries, each representing a time and place of Still’s life. Noticeably absent from the building is the standard gift-shop and coffee bar/restaurant – thought of as frivolous museum offerings also clearly addressed Still’s will.
At each gallery entrance “flight attendants” in vintage uniforms greeted guests with a stamp for the passport they received as they entered the museum. Once through the gallery, the passport read, “Behind all my work lays the figure.” With completed passports in hand, the party made its way to a festive tent where everyone could capture their own personal photos in a photo booth to add to the keepsake. Stations named for the many places Still has lived (San Francisco, Maryland, New York, etc.) served up specialty cocktails by Boca Loca and decadent bites. The highlight of the evening came with a one-hour private set from local indie-rockers, Devotchka, keeping the well-heeled crowd anything but still.
If you missed out on any of the grand opening festivities, the Clyfford Still Museum is now officially open to the public. You might want to consider turning your “Black Friday” into a colorful one and experience Denver’s newest cultural gem.
Clyfford Still Museum
1250 Bannock Street
Denver, CO 80204
Admission: Free (members), $10 (adults), $6 (students/seniors), $3 (youth 6-17)
Hours: Closed on Monday, 10 am – 5 pm (Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday), 10 am – 8 pm (Friday, beginning 11/25)