Upscale travelers to Colorado have a new special attraction. Denver’s new Still Museum reveals the work of one of America’s greatest modern painters after 50 years of mystery. To cap the event, his estate sold 4 paintings from his late wife’s collection for almost $120 million dollars, garnering worldwide attention when one painting sold for an unprecedented $61.7 million dollars in New York earlier this month.
The Clyfford Still Museum opened in Denver on November 18, 2011, reintroducing the life and work of one of America’s most significant yet least understood artists. Still began his career in San Francisco, briefly teaching at the Art Institute before heading off to New York where he skyrocketed to fame in the early 1950’s along with luminaries like Hans Hoffmann, Mark Rothko, and Robert Rauschenberg.
Still spearheaded what would become known as Abstract Expressionism, using a powerful visual language that thrilled New York artlovers. Only a few years later, Still abandoned the New York art scene and moved to Maryland to work in seclusion, with his work hidden away and never seen again publicly in his lifetime.
Fast forward 50 years to the present. After a national competition to obtain his works, with many stipulations laid out in his will, the city of Denver won the prize in 2004. Seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, the modernist memorial to a giant of the art world, and in the view of some, a giant ego, has opened its doors. Like a figure from an Ayn Rand novel, Still’s ego and talent remain legendary. Decades earlier when he donated works to the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum, he stipulated exactly how his work could be shown.
The museum allows the public to explore the full trajectory of Still’s 60-year career for the first time, including rarely seen figurative works from the 1930s, and hundreds of paintings from the 1960s and 1970s created after his retreat from the art scene. The museum’s collection of approximately 2,400 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures, the majority of which have never been on public display before, provides an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the scope of Still’s legacy and his profound influence on American art.
The museum houses the large abstract paintings in sunlit galleries where their stark, bright colors and sweeping swaths of paint fill the rooms with energy. Although Still denied any geographic or representational references in his work, they sing with the spirit of the wide open mountains and plains of his native North Dakota.
The new museum resides in the heart of the city’s Civic Center Cultural Complex, near the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Public Library designed by Michael Graves, and History Colorado designed by David Tryba. Visitors will gain further insight into Still’s personal history and creative process through the presentation of select objects from the Clyfford Still Archives, including letters, photographs, tools and materials, and various personal effects.
For more information about the Clyfford Still Museum, please visit the website. www.clyffordstillmuseum.org.
Tuesday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m Friday: Open until 8 p.m. Members and Children under 5 Free
Students/Seniors (65+) $6
Youth (ages 5-17) $3
© Copyright 2011 Mary Holman. All rights reserved. This article and content may not be republished, rewritten or excerpted.