Denver Art Museum  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

It is known for its collection of American Indian art, and has a comprehensive collection numbering more than 68,000 works from across the world.



The museum has nine curatorial departments: architecture, design & graphics; Asian art; modern and contemporary; native arts (American Indian, Oceanic, and African); New World (pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial); painting and sculpture (European and American); photography; Western art; and textile art.

Architecture, design and graphics

Formed in 1990, the department opened its first permanent galleries in 1993. Changing exhibitions drawn from its collection of fine and decorative arts are displayed on the sixth floor, featuring pre-1900 European and American decorative arts. 20th-century design galleries are located on the second floor.

Asian art

The museum's Asian art collection, the only such resource in the Rocky Mountain region, includes four main galleries devoted to the arts of India, China, Japan and Southwest Asia. Additional galleries offer works from Tibet, Nepal and Southeast Asia, while thematic galleries display religious art and traditional folk crafts.

Modern and contemporary

The modern and contemporary collection of 20th-century art contains over 4,500 works with an emphasis on both internationally known and emerging artists. The department also includes the Herbert Bayer collection and archive, an important Bauhaus artistic and scholarly resource, containing some 2,500 items including works by artists such as Man Ray, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Robert Motherwell, Damien Hirst, Philip Guston, Knox Martin, Dan Flavin, John DeAndrea, Gottfried Helnwein and Yue Minjun.


One of the museum's most popular and frequently asked-about piecesTemplate:Citation needed is part of the modern and contemporary collection. Linda, by Denver artist John DeAndrea, is a life-size realistic sculpture of a sleeping woman. Made of polyvinyl, this piece is sunlight-sensitive and is therefore shown only for short periods of time. The museum also owns another piece by the same artist, Clothed Artist and Model (1976).

The Shootout

In 1983 the museum became the home of Red Grooms' controversial pop-art sculpture The Shootout, which portrays a cowboy and an Indian shooting at one another. The sculpture, now on the roof of the museum restaurant, had been evicted from two other downtown Denver locations after Native-American activists protested and threatened to deface the work.<ref>Irene Clurman, "Orphan sculpture to find home at art museum," Rocky Mountain News, 12 October 1983, p.6.</ref>

Native arts

Native American

The museum's collection of American Indian art has over 16,000 works representing over a hundred tribes across North America. Under the direction of Arnold Ronnebeck, Art Director from 1926–1930, the Denver Art Museum was one of the first museums to use aesthetic quality as the criteria to develop such a collection, and the first art museum in this country to collect American Indian arts. The museum exhibits these items as art rather than anthropological artifacts. The range of Native American art styles is reflected in such diverse objects as Northwest Coast woodcarving, Naskapi painted leather garments, Winnebago twined weaving, Plains Indian beadwork, Navajo weaving, Pueblo pottery, and California basketry.


The Oceanic collection, on view in the Hamilton Building, includes all major island groups, with particular strength in late 18th and early 19th century wood carving and painted bark cloth from the islands of Samoa, Tonga and Hawaii. The Melanesian collection consists of masterpieces from Papua New Guinea and New Ireland. The contemporary Oceanic works, including paintings, drawings and prints, add distinction to the collection and demonstrate cultural continuities and innovation in Oceanic artistic traditions.


The African collection consists of approximately 1,000 objects, and focuses on the diverse artistic traditions of Africa, including rare works in sculpture, textiles, jewelry, painting, printmaking and drawings. Although the strength of the collection is west African art, with emphasis on Yoruba works, there are masterpieces from all regions and mediums of expression including wood, metals, fibers, terracotta and mixed media compositions. The hallmark of the collection includes contemporary expressions, comprising paintings, sculptures, drawings, videos and prints from prominent living artists with international reputations. Interactive elements in the gallery include an iPod station with African music selections, an area where you can create rubbings using African designs and a movie hide-away for the kids.

New World (pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial)

The museum has a comprehensive representation of the major stylistic movements from all the geographic areas and cultures of Latin America. The New World Collection, comprising over 5,500 objects, is exhibited in a unified presentation of the arts of Latin America. Included are pre-Columbian masterworks of ceramic, stone, gold and jade, as well as paintings, sculpture, furniture and silver from the Spanish Colonial Period.

The Frederick & Jan Mayer Center at the Denver Art Museum [1] is dedicated to increasing awareness and promoting scholarship in the fields of Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art through the New World collections of the Denver Art Museum. To this end, the Mayer Center sponsors annual symposia and publication of their proceedings, the publication of additional volumes as it sees fit, research opportunities including a resident fellowship program and periodic study tours to Latin America and Spain. The programming of the Mayer Center is developed and administered by the staff of the New World Department, Denver Art Museum.


The Denver Art Museum Pre-Columbian Collection is encyclopedic in breath and depth, and exhibited in an open storage gallery, allowing scholars to view the entire collection. The Pre-Columbian collection represents nearly every major culture in Mesoamerica, lower Central America, and South America. The collection’s greatest strength is the Mayer Central American collection which includes gold, jade, stone and earthenware from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. Mayan art from Mexico, Guatemala and Belize is especially significant and contains a large number of very important works. Other significant holdings from Mesoamerica include our West Mexican, Teotihuacan and Olmec collections. South American collections are especially strong in Ecuadorian and Colombian art and in several of the Peruvian styles, particularly Moche, Wari, Tiwanaku and Chimu.

Spanish Colonial

The museum collection of Spanish Colonial painting and furniture is especially strong in Mexican painting, largely due to the collecting interests and generosity of the Mayer family. Another area of great strength is Peruvian Colonial paintings from the Frank Barrows Freyer Collection. Silver holdings, comprising the Appleman and Stapleton collections, and furniture holdings from all over Latin America represent a comprehensive collection. The Anne Evans collection of Spanish Colonial art from the southwestern United States is yet another significant strength of the collection.

Painting and sculpture (European and American)

The over 3,000 objects in this department is composed of American and European painting, sculpture, and prints through the early 20th century. The European collection is richest in Renaissance and 19th-century French paintings. The American collection consists of paintings, sculpture, prints, and drawings representing all major periods in American art before 1945. Artists represented include Sandro Botticelli, Defendente Ferrari, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Other painters represented include; Jacopo del Casentino ("Madonna and Child"), Bernardo Zenale, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini ("4 Crowned Saints Before Diocletan"), Filippino Lippi, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Berthe Morisot, Max Beckmann, Juan Gris,and Georges Braque.

The Berger Collection

Works are also on view from The Berger Collection, one of the largest private individual collections of British art in the world, with more than 150 pieces by British artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Edward Lear and other artists of the English School that covers a period of 6 centuries.


Photography—previously incorporated in the modern and contemporary and Western collections—became a separate department in 2008.

Textile art

The collection ranges from Coptic and pre-Columbian textiles to contemporary works of art in fiber, overlapping culturally and chronologically with all but the Native Arts Department. A nationally-recognized collection of American quilts and coverlets, the Julia Wolf Glasser Collection of samplers, and the Charlotte Hill Grant Collection of Chinese Court Costumes are among the strengths of the department.


The Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum was established in 2001. Also that year, the collection was augmented by the Harmsen Foundation's donation of over 700 paintings. The Harmsen Collection joined a collection already rich in 19th-century photographs of the West and with such masterworks as Charles Marion Russell's In the Enemy's Country, Frederic Remington's The Cheyenne, and Charles Deas’s Long Jakes.

The Harmsen Collection

The Harmsen Collection contains works by artists and photographers who charted the colonization of the American West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Frederic Remington, Charles M Russell, Frank E. Schoonover, and Frank Tenney Johnson as well as more modern interpreters of American & Western art, such as Gerald Curtis Delano, Harvey Dunn, Dan Muller and Raymond Jonson.

Selected past exhibitions

  • 1999 Impressionism: Paintings Collected by European Museums, which received 215,000 visits.
  • 2000 Matisse from The Baltimore Museum of Art which received 155,000 visits.
  • 2001 European Masterpieces: Six Centuries of Paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia
  • 2002 The Cos Cob Art Colony: Impressionists on the Connecticut Shore
  • 2002 Metamorphosis: Modernist Photographs by Herbert Bayer and Man Ray
  • 2002 US Design 1975-2000
  • 2002 Art & Home: Dutch Interiors in the Age of Rembrandt
  • 2003 Antarctica: Through the Eyes of Those Who Live It
  • 2003 Bonnard
  • 2003 Sargent and Italy
  • 2003 El Greco to Picasso from The Phillips Collection, which received 191,000 visits
  • 2003 RETROSPECTACLE: 25 Years of Collecting Modern and Contemporary Art
  • 2004 Frederic Remington: The Color of Night
  • 2004 Painting a New World: Mexican Art and Life, 1521-1821
  • 2004 Tiwanaku: Ancestors of the Inca
  • 2005 Heaven and Home: Chinese Art of the Han Dynasty from the Sze Hong Collection
  • 2005 Amish Quilts: Kaleidoscope of Color from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown
  • 2005 Blanket Statements, an exhibition of Navajo Weavers
  • 2005 New Classics, contemporary pieces from the Museum’s American Indian collection, by a variety of artists including Dan Namingha, Emmi Whitehorse, Mateo Romero and Kevin Red Star.
  • 2006 RADAR: Selections from the Colorado Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan
  • 2006 Breaking the Mold: The Virginia Vogel Mattern Collection of Contemporary Native American Art
  • 2006 Japanese Art From the Collection of John and Kimiko Powers
  • 2007 Artisans & Kings: Selected Treasures from the Louvre
  • 2007 Color as Field: American Painting, 1950-1975
  • 2007 Maria: American Icon
  • 2007 George Carlson: Heart of the West
  • 2007 Clyfford Still Unveiled: Selections from the Estate
  • 2008 Inspiring Impressionism
  • 2008 Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism
  • 2009 The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters from the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965-71

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