Well! Here is a sight to see so splendid that we would happily return to Denver again just to revisit the Art Museum. Imagine going through gallery Art study room after gallery and seeing quiet groups of schoolkids seated on the floor with a teacher and a chaperone, happily learning about art, and so engrossed in what is being discussed that there is no fidgeting, and you, the adult, can walk around and appreciate masterpieces of art from around the world. One teacher was showing the proper way to drink tea in Japan, another was demonstrating a vicious-looking Samurai sword, and a third had involved the chilren in decoding faces and body parts in a complex cubist painting. These students return again and again, with concentrated instruction in different areas of the museum. In our childhood the Trip To The Museum was about as far as we got, and in our parent's childhood, less than a hundred years ago, drawing with crayons was the limit. What a marvelous change here in Denver!
Imagine, too, an art museum that is so intent on learning that it is filled with cozy little living rooms, called discovery centers, complete with sofas and coffee tables and bookshelves loaded with art books, videos with art videotapes, works of art to touch and feel, beautiful costumes to try on, interactive computer demonstrations. The intensely creative curators have endowed this Art Museum with a vibrant humanity and joy in artistic expression and appreciation! Painting by Bougereau
There are banners all over the city celebrating the Art Museum. The seven-story building was built in 1972, and resembles a tall castle keep, with irregularly shaped windows -- horizontal slits, diamond-shaped, skinny vertical openings. Inside the architectural interest is high, with angled walls on some galleries and dramatic overlooks to display works (such as totem poles) that are too high for even the twenty-foot ceilings. Not only are the works of art beautiful, but each gallery is arranged to sweep your glance around in a breathtaking panorama of sights. What shall I look at first?
The seven floors cover Asian, European and American art, with the greatest strength in the art of the Americas, including pre-Columbian art from both continents, followed by an attempt to understand the effect of the European conquest in terms of the merger of artistic traditions.
When we last visited the Tate Museum in London, we were somewhat put off by the efforts of the curators to group works not by period or style, but by subject. In London we found it jarring and incomprehensible. But the Denver Art Museum makes it work. A gallery which displays a variety of still life paintings from many different centuries is equipped with a real still life setting in the center -- chairs, tables, flowers, and the like, so the visitor or student is presented with the artistic concept and challenge and can appreciate the various distinct approaches, all successful but in different ways. Buddhist sand mandala
The staff is enthusiastic, friendly and polite to visitors, and so gently accomplishing the necessary task of watching over the collection and the behavior of the guests that you hardly notice. We had an animated conversation with one guide / guard about a room of modern Asian paintings, many of which expressed violent emotions.
We tired ourselves out on the upper floors, and so gave a pass to the travelling exhibit of European art from El Greco to Picasso which is on loan from the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., now being remodeled.
It's difficult to make an Art Museum universal in scope; besides being expensive, a museum is somewhat at the mercy of its donors, many of whom have specialized collections that they will donate on condition that they be exhibited together. But the DAM is broadening its collection, so much that it needs a new wing. The city fathers, intent on keeping downtown Denver exciting, have located the wing, which is actually a separate, sharply angular modern building, a hundred feet away, connected by a bending walkway to the older building. Construction is underway, funded in part by a $65M city bond issue. That represents both the wealth of Denver and the devotion of its citizens to the public welfare. Across the way from the DAM is the Public Library, designed by Michael Graves; the two buildings are connected by an underground passage. A furniture gallery
All of this cultural complex is a couple blocks from the statehouse, and near to the Colorado History Museum as well.
So one of our recommendations to travelers is to visit the DAM! Another is to Shake It Down. Here's the story: This morning Bob arose, rather achey and under the weather. Pulling out our faithful thermometer, he was stunned to read his temperature: 103.4! As we were throwing on clothing to dash for the local emergency room, he decided to take it one more time: 98.4 We remembered we had been complaining about the unseasonable heat in the southwestern deserts a couple of weeks ago. The luggage gets to roast in the back of the truck, unaffected by the air conditioning, so the temperature in back must have hit 103.4.
It's a good thing we're looking out for each other, because alone either one of us would be a menace!!