Denver Art Museum gets ready to unveil major renovations — The Know

The long-anticipated reopening of Denver Art Museum’s updated campus will arrive on Oct. 24 with free admission and an inside look at its first big additions in more than a decade.

The $150 million project, which broke ground prior to the pandemic, included a major renovation for the museum’s 50-year-old, Gio Ponti-designed Martin Building — formerly known as the North Building — and a new welcome center, among other upgrades and add-ons.

“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, the Frederick and Jan Mayer director of the Denver Art Museum, in a press statement. “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 project also added the 50,000-square-foot 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, officials added). The second-level entryway features ticketing, guest services and dining options, while the lower level houses a new conservation and technical studies laboratory.

Funded in part with $35.5 million from the voter-approved Elevate Denver bond program, the project was on budget and on time before COVID-19 ground public activity to a halt in mid-March 2020. Before that, the museum reported about 800,000 annual visitors, underlining the need for the project’s more than 83,000 square feet of new space.

In late 2019, museum officials expected the project would be complete on June 6, 2020. After COVID-19 arrived, they optimistically pushed that date to June 26, 2020. After that came and went, Denver Art Museum joined the leagues of cultural nonprofits adopting a “wait and see” approach.

Meanwhile, limited capacity restrained the museum’s otherwise major openings, such as a Frida Kahlo and Mexican Modernism exhibition last year. But with an Oct. 24 opening set (for now), museum officials are clearly hoping to ramp up to full capacity before the end of the year.

It’s also good news following bad, as the museum received an at-times scathing assessment from the Denver Auditor’s office in January. Auditor Timothy O’Brien faulted museum officials for restricting access to a digital archive, not clarifying ownership of certain works held between the museum and city, and other concerns.

RELATED: Who owns Denver Art Museum’s art? City audit says it’s unclear on some works.

“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, board chairman, in last week’s press statement.

The Martin Building has been restored and renovated throughout, officials said, including the realization of “Ponti’s original vision for the seventh floor, expanding gallery space and offering visitor access to stunning city and mountain views.” The work, including 33,328 square feet of new gallery and public space, also added elevators and other mechanical and environmental improvements.

The Northwest Coast and Alaska Native gallery will occupy level 2; followed by design galleries (also level 2); Indigenous Arts of North America galleries (level 3); Latin American art and Art of the Ancient Americas galleries (level 4); Asian art galleries (level 5); European art before 1800 galleries (level 6); textile art and fashion galleries (level 6); photography galleries (level 6); and Western American art (level 7).

The Hamilton Building, the art museum’s last major, public-facing addition, opened in 2006.

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