Art lovers will find plenty to keep them busy during a trip to Denver. At the city’s art museums, find a full spectrum of art, from impressionist to contemporary to abstract expressionist—plus, one of the world’s top collections of American Indian art.
Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum, established in 1893, displays more than 70,000 works of art divided between 10 permanent collections, ranging from a world-famous American Indian art collection—it was the first art museum in the U.S. to collect the genre—to paintings by van Gogh, Monet and Degas to large and unique contemporary pieces befitting the modern space. Traveling exhibitions, restaurants and a museum boutique augment the vast permanent collection, while the Daniel Libeskind-designed Frederic C. Hamilton Building is an architectural work of art in itself, with sharp angles that mimic the city’s mountainous backdrop.
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Denver’s first designated home for contemporary art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver explores the art and culture of our time through exhibitions and public education programs.
Founded in 1996, the museum used to be located in a downtown fish market until it received a gift of land where it could build its own designated structure as a permanent home for contemporary art. The resulting 27,000-square-foot, environmentally sustainable facility designed by British architect David Adjaye blurs the line between interior and exterior with large windows, skylights, a shop, library, rooftop café and more.
Instead of a permanent collection, the museum features five galleries, which display rotating exhibitions of work by regional, national and international artists. In the past, MCA Denver has displayed artwork by the likes of Damien Hirst, Jonas Burgert, Wangechi Mutu and Dana Schutz.
Clyfford Still Museum
Although Clyfford Still, a pioneer of the post-World War II abstract expressionism movement, was born in North Dakota, his wife chose the city of Denver as the recipient of his estate and, ultimately, all his archives of letters, sketchbooks, manuscripts, photo albums and personal effects after the artist's death.
Today, the Clyfford Still Museum collection consists of 95 percent of the painter’s lifetime output, including approximately 3,125 works created between 1920 and 1980—making its collection the most intact body of work of any major artist. The museum is devoted to Still’s art and legacy, in addition to the important period of American art history that surrounded his lifetime. Still, whose life was shrouded in mystery, chose to sell barely any of his pieces after the 1940s, so visiting the Clyfford Still Museum is the best way to experience his boldly colored paintings in person.
American Museum of Western Art—The Anschutz Collection
This newer museum—founded in 2010—is the permanent home of the Anschutz collection, one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Western art, consisting of more than 300 paintings, drawings and sculptures by more than 180 artists, spanning 200 years of American history.
The three-story museum, located in the historic Navarre Building, displays its paintings salon-style, like most European museums, with the paintings stacked three-high on the walls. See examples of American expeditionary painting, Hudson River School and Rocky Mountain School landscapes, 19th-century American narrative painting, early American modernism, expressionism, cubism and abstractionism, New Deal art and more. Expect a thorough education on American art history and the history of the American West itself.
The museum is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Housed in the Colorado Building, this locally beloved Denver art-world gem offers plenty of Instagram-worthy photo ops, from its giant inflatable bunnies to the life-sized cardboard roadster pictured above.
The mazelike rooms at the Dikeou Collection are filled with innovative and thought-provoking photography, drawings, sculptures and installations by over 30 international artists, including Tracy Nakayama, Agathe Snow and Johannes Vanderbeek.
The sibling-owned contemporary-art collection hails from Pany and Devon Dikeou—who’s an artist and the founder of New York publication zingmagazine. The space also plays host to lectures, tours, educational workshops, readings and musical events. For an alternative art experience, check out the museum’s pop-up—a smaller, second location located in the former Jerry’s Record Exchange storefront at 312 E. Colfax Ave., in the heart of downtown Denver. Both locations offer free admission and are open Wednesday through Friday.
Museo de las Americas
This fine-art museum located in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District fills an important niche in the city’s cultural landscape.
Museo de las Americas educates the community about the diversity of Latin American art and culture, from the ancient to the contemporary, through innovative exhibitions and programs. A permanent collection of pre-Columbian art, Latin American folk art and contemporary Latino art pieces is on display, alongside avant-garde exhibitions that showcase regional artists and shine a light on social issues, promoting understanding between cultures.